Mountain View is a quietly intense suburb at the nexus of the San Francisco peninsula and Silicon Valley proper, filled with trees, flowers, and the hum of the highways and office parks off in the distance. It’s like Palo Alto without the ego, and about as different from San Francisco as Silicon Valley gets.
Quora, the quietly ambitious startup that’s creating a smarter, Q&A-style Wikipedia, is going to fit right in.
It’ll be occupying floors four and five of Mozilla’s building in the town’s sleepy center, at 650 Castro Street. There’ll be room to grow from the company’s 40 or so current employees to more than 150 “over the next few years,” co-founder Adam D’Angelo told me by phone yesterday.
There was no such space in the company’s Palo Alto location. D’Angelo took to his product today to share more details on the decision:
We’re running out of space in our current office, so we’ve been looking for more space for a while now. Because the downtown Palo Alto market is so hot, there is no available office space big enough for us nearby. We can also afford a longer-term lease now that we’ve raised our series B.
Those factors prompted us to look at other downtown areas around Silicon Valley. Ideally, we were looking for a space that was walking distance from a Caltrain stop, in an area with restaurants and other downtown amenities. We were lucky to find a space that meets our needs on Castro Street in downtown Mountain View. It’s not too far from our current location and it will give us space to grow to four times our current size of 40 employees.
He also told me that the other option was, in fact, San Francisco, where other hot consumery valley startups like Pinterest are moving. But most employees live further south, and there was some concern that such a long move to a culturally distinct place could be disruptive for productivity.
Quora is high-profile, in some sense. Like other question-and-answer sites, users create accounts, then follow, vote on and sometimes answer questions. But the way it combines these features, and the way it’s trying to grow, has already resulted in big quality gains over older rivals like Yahoo Answers or startups like Formspring.
Their personal reputations have most certainly helped attract a strong early user base — other engineers and tech leaders, to begin with. An increasing number of thought leaders in other industries have also been joining over the last year or two. And you’ll occasionally see expert answers make big news, like this medical researcher’s insightful explanation of Steve Jobs’ cancer issues last year: “Why did Steve Jobs choose not to effectively treat his cancer?”
Answer by answer, user by user, the company aims to fill search results and social networks with better information. The fine-tuning of the product, the slow accumulation of smart users, and the gradual proliferation of great answers across the Internet will require years of concentration. As a former Mountain View resident, I can say the company has found the right place.