By: Alex Konrad
Quora, the popular questions and answers website, says it has the largest library of first-hand knowledge and second largest library on the Web overall, after Wikipedia. But while Wikipedia stays independent with the support of a non-profit foundation, Quora’s backed by major venture investors like Peter Thiel. So how does Quora keep them happy? By taking on a whole lot more money.
Quora announced Wednesday that it’s raised $80 million in a Series C round led by Tiger Global. Existing investors Benchmark, Matrix Partners, North Bridge Venture Partners and Peter Thiel have all re-invested in the site, which Quora says could be enough money to finally break even and turn a profit–or at least be the last money it needs to raise.
“The main thing we are going to do with the money is make sure Quora lasts forever,” says Marc Bodnick, head of business operations. “We are permanent, a prominent library, and we will stay independent forever. The company intends that for the long term and to not be acquired. So we will keep most of this money as insurance.”
Quora says it’s got 400,000 topics on the site and that popular writers on the site can get as many as a million page views in a month, but the site famously doesn’t reveal it’s exact traffic totals. Quora had raised $50 million at a reported $400 million valuation in 2012. Bodnick wouldn’t put a tag on the new valuation this time, just saying it’s higher than the last, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think the company has significantly grown that valuation by as much as 100%, which would peg it more at $800 million. (Other early reports have it even a little higher.)
Cofounder Adam D’Angelo has invested his own money in the company in the past, and wrote in some Quora answers today that the company still had money left over from its last raise but was approached by Tiger. What’s less clear, however, is Tiger’s motivation. Bodnick says Tiger star investor Lee Fixel led the deal but won’t take a board seat; he also affirmed that Quora’s not planning to go public in the next several years. “We will stay a private company for the medium term, I don’t anticipate being public for a while. And we will monetize sometime for the medium term,” Bodnick says.
So is Tiger in an ultra-long game? Or is there something altruistic about this large an investment on a long timetable? Fixel didn’t respond to a request for comment, but Bodnick says that the company couldn’t retain the top talent it does and grow at the same pace if it went the Wikipedia non-profit route. “We have the best engineering and design team at our scale. A private company is the best way to organize something like this.”
Quora plans to spend some of the money, though, on the usual cases–product development and continued improvements in mobile, where the company gets 40% of its traffic. It will also begin to consider how to make revenue, though Bodnick stressed the company’s early into that strategic scheming. Revenue would likely come, however, from some sort of advertising set-up, as direct-intent visitors, the 1/3 of Quora users who are going to the site with a specific question, might get matched with answers from advertisers.
Could Quora end up with sponsored posts at the top of its pages? “I don’t think we will ever compromise the mission of the company,” Bodnick says. “The best answers will still go on top, the worst answers get shoved off the page.”
Quora would also seem to have opportunity to make cash through promoting certain experts or brands as preferred answerers, or by matchmaking those promoters by a topic. Bodnick says such tactics could be possible, but that the moneymakers won’t come to dominate the site. “We wouldn’t want someone from a company to have unfair advantage to curation or quality signal.”
In the meantime, Quora will also build out its presence in other languages while beefing up its development staff. And Quora’s top answer for why it’s doing it all? From Bodnick and D’Angelo, the repeat answer is “forever.”
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