The following is a guest post from fnBlog Contributor David Cheng, Co-Founder/CEO of VendorStack. This post, originally posted on the VendorStack blog, discusses the importance of answering questions.
This past weekend, we quietly released the Q&A portion of VendorStack. Q&A was a major pivot we made over the summer as we interviewed a hundred startup founders about their enterprise vendors. When we asked them where they did their best diligence on vendors, almost all of them said Quora or some mailing list where Q&A was the primary method of communication. In fact, many of them would only give us answers if asked a question (/sarcasm)! It turns out, enterprise consumers don’t sit at their work desk reviewing their vendors. It’s not like Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest–people rarely feel passionate enough about their vendors and most certainly don’t waste productive work hours trolling VendorStack or related sites reviewing enterprise vendors. However, they do ask and answer questions. There is something about the psychology of asking and answering a question that encourages engagement. Implicit in many of those vendor-related questions our interviewees answered were reviews of the vendors mentioned. Dallas and I had our euraka moment and we knew we couldn’t just be a “Yelp for enterprise” but a “Yelp + Quora for enterprise.“
How is babby formed?
For those of you old enough to remember this internet meme, “how is babby formed” was a Yahoo answers question raised by “kavya”. Best summed up in this post on Know Your Meme, kayva asked on Yahoo answers “how is babby formed” and “how girl get pregnant”. Ironically, kavya’s 2006-era question represents the evolution of content discovery on the internet. Judging from the grammatical atrocities and content matter of “how is babby formed”, we can assume Kavya is unsophisticated, young, does not have a strong command of the English language, or likely all of the above. All these characteristics make Kavya the perfect vessel for a reduction to simplicity. You see, Kavya could’ve looked up pregnancy on the Mayo Clinic’s website or googled “pregnancy” and “baby”. Instead, Kavya did what was most instinctive and asked a question. After all, asking a question is more natural than querying a Boolean string of search terms.
A brief history of the internet
Once upon a time, the internet was not a scary place with billions of websites but rather a watering hole for hobby enthusiasts, technobabble (not technobabby), and of course, pornography. It was small enough that Yahoo was able to organize it in a tree data structure, or as they called it back then, Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle. Soon, the internet became too large and expansive and more content resided in the “long tail” instead of the head. That is when Google and search came to power. Google granted users the power to search for answers deeply embedded within that long tail.
However, as ever more content became prevalent, even a Google search wasn’t yielding the results you wanted. Or rather, it yielded too many results. Facebook and social then came to power. Rather than searching for answers, we preferred if trusted sources curated the content most relevant to us by the people we trust the most–our friends. Even now though, our Facebook and Twitter feeds have become cluttered. It turns out our friends are just as bad at finding content as we are. That is where we are today and why I believe services like Quora and Siri will become more important over time. At the end of the day, when we query something on the internet, we’re really not asking for a list of results that may be the answer we’re looking for. We’re looking for one answer.
If there’s one thing I’ll learn from being an entrepreneur, it’s that joining Reddit as “diligence on learning about community-driven content sites” was simultaneously the best and worst idea. I easily waste 30 minutes on Reddit every day when I’m looking for a 5-minute burst of distraction in the topics I care most about. Sites like Reddit, Hacker News, and StackOverflow provide high quality content in our world of TL;DR because it is mostly focused and purpose-driven. If you go to a sub-Reddit, you know exactly what you’re looking for. Therein lies one of the failings of Quora, in my opinion. Quora wanted to be the Google of Q&A and cover everything but it was too early. Even Siri has gotten negative press because it can’t answer simple questions due to the sheer volume of content she covers. Either the user-generated content or the technology isn’t commercially ready for instant-gratification answers. In order for these Q&A driven platforms to be successful, the scope has to be limited by design.
On VendorStack, we only care about enterprise vendors. It’s boring and unsexy but that’s what we’re into. We believe we’re at the dawn of the a new era of enterprise consumers who want to share and disrupt the oligopoly of market research driven. Come on in and ask and answer some questions, will you?