Have you ever wondered, “What’s the best way to escape the police in a high-speed car chase?” or “What’s it like to be a self-made millionaire before the age of 25” or “What was it like to be in the World Trade Center at the time of the 9/11 attacks”. The curious child in all of us ponders the answers to such questions. For those of us in need of satisfying that thirst quenching curiosity, you have a chance to hear from a patrolling officer, young millionaire and 9/11 survivor answer each of the above questions respectively at Quora.com. Some of the answers to these questions are truly awe inspiring, bone chilling recounts of people’s actual experience while other’s are very educational and offer learning opportunities i.e. Running from the cops is not exactly like The Fast & The Furious.
Quora.com was founded and launched in 2009 by ex-Facebook CTO Adam D’Angelo. The site was up for 6-month beta test and due to growing popularity, was quickly funded in 2010. In 2012, they had yet to earn a single dollar in revenue, however the company was valued at $400M at that time. They operate in a very lean environment with only 51 employees on staff, which helps their funding go a long way.
Quora has seen explosive growth since 2009, with just over 1 million unique site visits today. Personally, I found the site through Facebook when I noticed the answer to a question I was always curious about. After clicking through to Quora, I discovered what an average of 180,000 Facebook users a month had stumbled upon, a treasure trove of expert knowledge and information.
Quora has a simple strategy. They have cultivated a niche in the information search world by providing answers to more complex questions than what you may find with a simple Google search or written by an anonymous person on Yahoo Answers. The experience you get from using the site is unique because the top answer to a question usually comes from an expert in that field that was upvoted to the top of the page leaving the weaker answers at the bottom. Both the answer to the questions as well as the voting system are crowdsourced to allow the Quora community to self-manage what it believes to be the best answers to questions. Alternatively, sites like Yahoo Answers allow the person asking the question to determine who had the best answer. Why a site would allow a person asking the question (presumably because they have little knowledge of the topic) to decide who had the best answer baffles me.
What’s more interesting is the amount of “high profile” users such as Dustin Moscovitz (as seen above), Mark Zuckerberg and Ashton Kutcher come to the site to answer questions. In fact just two days ago I got my automated email from Quora.com that had the question “How does Dustin Moscovitz feel about being a billionaire?” After seeing that Dustin himself provided the answer, I was immediately sucked into a vortex of inquisitiveness to see what he had to say.
While there are no other competitors out there with this unique positioning, Quora still has to figure out a way to monetize their site. Typical ad revenue is the first thing that comes to mind with sponsored ads on the right hand side of the website that are related to keywords within the questions/answers. However, I figured I would go to the site itself to see what the users proposed for monetization. Obviously ad revenue was a major response however I found these two other ideas very promising for revenue generation purposes
- Career Building / Recruiting– The nature of Quora’s upvote platform results in the recognition of experts within a particular field. If I were a company looking to hire someone in that field, the person that consistently provides in-depth knowledgeable responses would be at the top of my recruitment list. Alternatively, the person providing the responses is able to build an excellent personal brand for themselves to supplement their resume.
- Pay for Answers – This system would work by a person posting a question with keywords. These keywords would correlate with a highly ranked expert that has shown a past history of answering questions relating to those keywords. The asker would then propose a payment of a certain some of money to ask that expert to answer their question.
Whatever Quora chooses to do in terms of monetization, it will not happen soon. How do I know? Well, the CEO himself said so.