The amazing Quora raises $50m

When I read on Techcrunch this morning that Quora has raised $50m at a $400m valuation I thought “‘wow’, that’s interesting, I haven’t heard much about them recently, I wonder how they are getting on”. First I checked their Alexa graph which seemed to confirm my initial impression that progress has slowed following a meteoric rise in 2010 (or more precisely their Traffic Rank dropped Q2-Q3 2011 and has been rising again since, recently regaining the earlier peak).

Then I took a look at Quora itself.

And ‘puff’ an hour of my life disappeared, just like that. The content on Quora is now of an amazing quality, and much of it is sifted and prioritised for me by my friends asking, answering and following questions and upvoting other people’s answers.

I’m a very task driven person and as a result Quora doesn’t fit very well into my reading habits. Every morning I exhaustively read two feeds I have created on Taptu and the Financial Times mobile app on my Android – a reading habit developed to reliably complete two tasks – staying on top of the news (politics and finance news from the FT, tech news from my tech news feed on Taptu which aggregates The Kernel, Techcrunch, Venturebeat, GigaOM, and a selection of other tech news blogs) and reading everything produced by a small number of my favourite bloggers (most notably Fred Wilson and Brad Feld). Spending time on Quora doesn’t help with either of these tasks which is I think why I don’t go there very often. Rather Quora is good for improving your general understanding of the world in unpredictable ways, which isn’t something I currently make time for in my daily schedule.

But maybe I should. I read some great stuff today on topics like why aren’t VCs lean and scrappy, and why Pinterest took so long to go viral, but the pick of the bunch by far were some of the answers to What are some decisions taken by the “Growth team” at Facebook that helped Facebook reach 500 million users?. Here are some of the highlights:

  • they had a ‘fundamental understanding’ of their product and why people use it
  • they combined simple frameworks for understanding the business with rigorous analysis to precisely target development efforts on areas which would yield big improvements – e.g. their user framework had four elements – acquisition, retention, engagement and resurrection and they mapped different products and different areas of the site onto each of these elements so they could precisely figure out how to optimise each of them
  • they were incredibly thorough – e.g. going the extra mile to support contact imports from a huge variety of services (to maximise virality)
  • they have a team of great people and a unique culture

This list reads like a checklist of attributes for a great company generally (I’m mentally checking my portfolio against it now….). The Quora post has much more colour.