It was nearly five years ago that Adam D'Angelo left his Chief Technology Officer role at Facebook--the hottest company around--and started Quora, the question and answer site par excellence. (But it's more than that--wait!) What was immediately cool about D'Angelo's startup was its contributors. If you asked a question at Quora, you might find your answer came from Mark Zuckerberg or Peter Thiel. Zuckerberg and D'Angelo were pals in high school. Thiel, the famous venture capitalist, had skin in the game. But it wasn't all just friends and investors--people flocked to Quora because it had quality answers and had engineered technical solutions that got the best to bubble to the top. (True, as much as tech companies don't like the word bubble!)
D'Angelo was 26 when he started Quora. And his vision, which now looks pretty clear, was to create a real "knowledge base", not just a clever Q&A forum. Quora also has a unique fuel for a Silicon Valley venture: it's fueled by a kind of altruism. While answering questions expertly does help enhance the reputation of an answerer, the primary motivation among Quora users seems to be the genuine desire to share knowledge. So less self-promotion, more punch. It rather self-polices that way. Adam D'Angelo really does have all the answers--with a little help from his booming village of knowledgeable friends. Quora has "the second largest library on the Web overall after Wikipedia." And the largest in "firsthand information."
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