Ex-Facebook employees Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever’s Q&A site Quora is already an exceptionally hyped Silicon Valley startup.This story isn’t going to help calm things down.
Last week, when we were reporting for our story on how Quora is going to take a funding round at a huge valuation, one of our sources told us something remarkable.
He said that he had heard gossip that Quora had already turned down $1 billion acquisition offer.
This piece of gossip seemed improbable to us – nuts, really.
But we reached out to a Quora investor anyway and asked about this alleged billion dollar offer. His answer: “I don’t know about that. But it would be too low.”
Now, obviously, asking an investor in a startup about that startup’s potential is a great way to hear a biased, bullish argument. But even knowing that, we were still surprised to hear this investor already had such high expectations.
One billion dollars!
Some people outside the company just don’t see it.
They look at Quora and see a fancy, cleaned-up version of popular but junky Q&A sites Yahoo Answers and Answers.com, which, despite 100 million monthly uniques, just sold for measly $127 million.
These sceptics say that Quora, which is only really popular with Silicon Valley insiders, will first struggle to scale and then suffer from scale. They say that New York Time’s tech critic David Pogue’s failure to find a camp for his kid on Quora proved the site is useless to normals.
But this kind of scepticism is actually rare.
Google’s head of design gushed about the site in December, saying it has “a very successful design, not only visually, but also for interaction in terms of how they have built in mechanics for ensuring high quality content.”
“For a Q&A site, it didn’t turn into a Yahoo Answers with spammy answers. There’s a lot of really rich high quality content there. It’s one of my favourite sites to visit on a daily basis now.”
Asked to make a bull’s case for Quora, ours would go something like this:
- Its launch pattern looks a lot like Facebook’s. Like Facebook at Harvard, Quora started with an elite social group that outsiders crave to join. Like Facebook, Quora is scaling in a steady-and-controlled fashion.
- If Quora can keep the quality of its questions and answers high as its users broach topics beyond Silicon Valley and tech entrepreneurship, it could become a great place for ads targeted to specific queries, e.g. “Which wine goes best with trout?”
One tech entrepreneur we know said the real bad news for the startup is that so many people believe in it.
“I wouldn’t want to be in Quora’s position,” he said.
“They’re getting all this awesome hype, and people are coming to the site, and they’re just not ready to live up to it. People ask questions and almost everyone who goes to Quora and asks a question does not get it answered.”
“Millions of people whose initial impressions of Quora are going to be bad. It’s unfortunate because the idea is good; they’re just not there yet.”