Tag Archives: Quora

Foursquare, Quora, Path: What Becomes Of The Underachievers?

Foursquare, Quora, Path. Each is (or was) a Valley darling; each has millions of loyal users; each has raised more than $50 million, albeit nontraditionally, and been valued at $400 million or more — and each has recently done something remarkable. Foursquare and Path pivoted, hard. Quora, bizarrely, joined Y Combinator.

Are they just flailing, or is there method to this madness?

Foursquare, which started life as “the check-in app,” is ripping check-ins out of its eponymous app and moving them to its new ambient-social app called Swarm. What’s more, it’s planning to start charging for heavy use of its API, which is much beloved by third-party developers (including me.)

Which leaves it seeming more than a little unfocused. The main Foursquare app has essentially become a Yelp competitor. Swarm is now a side business, presumably because check-ins are no longer a growth industry, and haven’t been for some years now. Foursquare is allegedly on course to bring in $30-$40 million in revenue this year, which sounds good — but is not a lot for a company which has raised more than $160 million at valuations north of $600 million … if its growth has slowed.

Path, the mobile social network whose superb design wowed the Valley some years ago, before it began to look like a beautiful solution in search of a problem, has pivoted almost as dramatically. First they ripped a page out of Snapchat’s book and suddenly retroactively made all Path messages ephemeral. A week later they launched a new messaging app and acquired consumer-to-business messaging service TalkTo.

Again, an odd sudden change of direction for a four-year-old company which has raised $65 million. Everyone loves messaging apps today, in principle, thanks to WhatsApp — but the world already has Line, Viber, Kik, Snapchat, WeChat, Tango, etc, to say nothing of Facebook, Twitter, and Skype. It’s hard to see how (maybe) the sixth-place social network, which has struggled with layoffs and executive exits, benefits from branching out to become (maybe) the thirteenth-place messaging app. But Path has to do something … if its growth has slowed.

Quora is the strangest case of all. Why join Y Combinator? I mean, it didn’t cost them much, and it’s nice that it’ll be “fun personally to participate” for Adam D’Angelo, but how is it anything other than a distraction? “We’ll have Sam and all the other partners to help us,” D’Angelo says, without specifying what kind of help they want.

I think we can all make a pretty good guess, though. Quora was recently valued at some $900 million, but as Josh Constine puts it:

Quora has been cagey about its stats since forever, only talking in relative growth and vanity metrics rather than absolute user counts … This makes it tough to know exactly how popular it is, but the general consensus hovers around “known amongst Silicon Valley intellectuals” and “just not big enough”.

Joining YC might seem weird or even desperate, but weird or even desperate is actually the right move for Quora … if its growth has slowed.

You might be noticing a theme here.

As Paul Graham once put it: “A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup.” But, similarly, just because you’re “late-stage” — big, massively well-funded and relatively mature — doesn’t mean you’re not a startup. A corollary of Graham’s definition is: if you need to grow fast, then no matter how big you are, you’re still a startup … meaning you’re still extremely vulnerable.

Foursquare, Path, and Quora don’t yet have mature business models lucrative enough to justify their funding and valuation. Meaning all three are still startups, and have no choice but to keep growing, fast. That’s a huge challenge. It’s relatively easy to double a userbase when it numbers in the thousands; much harder when it’s already in the millions, unless you benefit from network effects. Doubly so when you’ve lost your cool and become yesterday’s news, no longer the talk of the Valley’s chattering classes:

Does it sound like I’m being hard on them? That is not my intent. All three companies have done genuinely extraordinary things. They have scaled from scrappy outsiders into significant players. They have millions of faithful users. While it’s true they have succeeded well within their founders’ wildest dreams, they are still among the best of the best, or they wouldn’t have gotten to where they are today.

But the lesson here is that even that’s not good enough. Not if you stop growing before you start making money. Today’s tech industry will eagerly accept hypergrowth in lieu of revenue, but it will not accept neither. If you’re not yet raking in money, then you must grow, and keep growing, fast … or suffer and eventually die. And the bigger you are, the harder it is to keep riding the hockey stick — and the harder you fall if you fail.

Quora – What it Is and How to Use it

“Quora” is on everyone’s lips nowadays. Quora is an online community-driven question & answer (Q&A) repository with overflowing information that is of interest to many people and many different interests. Quora is useful to all different businesses.

There are many different ways in which Quora can be leveraged, no matter what the size is of the business. With all of the wonderful features that it offers, it is an excellent way to increase your connections as well as enriching your knowledge base. Because the resources that Quora offers are the top experts on those particular topics, a lot of confidence will be instilled in the people asking the questions. The following are some of the ways in which Quora can be used effectively for your business:

  • Research the competition: Keeping a close watch on Competitive Intelligence is essential for your business. You need to pay attention to what your competition is doing and what the buzz is about them from other people. The members of the Quora community can provide you with in-depth information and in many cases, those people have had direct experience with the companies that you are researching.
  • Strengthen your business’s position in the eyes of your customers: You can gather the number of times and the sources that have mentioned your business. You start by searching for your business’s name. If it already happens to be a topic on Quora, you can follow that topic so that you receive alerts when new questions are asked. If you should happen to respond to a question that someone else poses, it is your opportunity to ensure that your offerings are fairly represented. Quora is also an excellent vehicle when it comes to actually delivering superior customer service by responding to customer complaints and problems. Your business’s representatives can act as resources of information as well.
  • Press coverage for your business: If you are interested in getting the press to communicate information about your business to others, you can use Quora for that also. You can gather intelligence from comments that have been gathered on Quora. That can prove to be very useful.
  • Build your network: You should constantly be striving to increase the number of connections that you have in your network. You should look for people who have similar interests to yours and who are passionate about topics that are important to you and your business. Quora is an excellent place to cultivate new and meaningful relationships. It is very simple to do. You simply click on the green “Follow Topic” button, which can be found at the top of the sidebar on the right side of your monitor.
  • Cultivate longer dialogue: Unlike Twitter and Facebook, which encourage people to communicate in short installments, Quora encourages longer communications among its members. At the heart of Quora is deep and expansive knowledge. However, in as much as longer communications are encouraged, your words should still be chosen wisely.
  • Position yourself as a subject matter expert (SME): As you connect with more and more people who share your interests, your ultimate goal is to establish meaningful relationships with those people. In order to do that, you need to bring something of value to the table (in the form of your knowledge and expertise). The more you interact with people and communicate and share your knowledge with them, the more they will regard you as an expert. Before you know it, they will be pursuing conversations with you on a very regular basis and really wanting to read what you have to say.
  • Strengthen existing relationships: One of the best ways to communicate with people with whom you already share a relationship is by sending them Email. Quora allows you to communicate through Email with whomever you like. You can share information of interest that you have found through Quora and send them a “touching base” Email. In all likelihood, the information will be greatly appreciated and you will have placed yourself on the forefront of their minds.
  • Getting up to speed quickly: If you have an interest in a topic about which you know very little, Quora provides you with a tremendous resource of experts on that particular topic. You can get advice and information on any topic that you wish. Your pool of experts will always be there for you.
  • Search for new topics on Quora: As you are going through the questions that other people are posing, you can get ideas about new topics of interest. Many of the questions that you encounter may serve as fodder for blog ideas, newsletters, etc.


Quora is a wonderful tool that can help you tremendously in your business. It allows you to stay on top of essential information that can greatly affect the success of your work. It is also a tremendous way to interact with other people and to build meaningful and long-lasting relationships.