Quora famously doesn’t share its growth numbers. Due to this furtiveness, many people speculate that it is not growing. On Quora even: Has Quora as a business failed? is a Quora question that smacked me in the face right as I opened the site to research this article.
The first answer to the question brings up Quora investor Peter Thiel’s refutation of such short-term thinking and asks, “The more pertinent question is if Quora’s growth rate is accelerating, holding steady, or significantly decelerating over time?”
Well today, because of a promotional video the startup itself has released on its blog, we know that that growth is accelerating, with all user numbers up at least 3x from where they were last May, including DAUs, MAUs, users registered, questions answered and questions voted on. The startup is hockey-sticking, according to founder Adam D’Angelo who, no matter how much I beg him, won’t show me where the y-axis of any of their growth graphs was a year ago.
“Why are you choosing (and do you always choose) not to reveal actual numbers? Despite your users clamoring for them,” I asked D’Angelo, because, while 3x in a year isn’t to be scoffed at, 3x of 10K DAUs is significantly less impressive. “We don’t see a good reason to,” he responded. “Usage numbers don’t reflect quality and user experience, which are what’s important to us.”
“What do you say to critics who bring up sites like Alexa and Compete as evidence of your traffic decline?” I also asked, because when a company is clandestine like this, people look for external cues of success. “Since I have our real metrics, I look at those and not external ones,” D’Angelo says. He does reveal that this growth spans beyond Silicon Valley, disputing the perception that Quora is singularly Valley-focused. “All of California is less than 10 percent of usage. New York City is the biggest city.”
In the question linked above, Thiel insists that focusing on hyper growth for consumer startups is an outdated and too-superficial heuristic.
“The focus, particularly in companies with exploding growth, is on next month’s, quarters, or, less frequently, years. That is too short a timeline. Old Economy mode works in the Old Economy. It does not work for thinking about tech and high growth businesses. Yet startup culture today pointedly ignores, and even resists, 10-15 year thinking.”
Thus I asked D’Angelo what the 10-15 year plan was for Quora: “You say you’re not planning on ever selling it in the video. What big opportunity will eventually justify the $61 million put in by investors 10-15 years from now?”
“Our mission is to share and grow the world’s knowledge,” he says. “We believe that if we can deliver on that mission at scale, we will create a lot of value for everyone.” He brings up this robustly filled-out Quora question about the International Space Station as an example of that value. There are countless others like this one, this one, this one and especially this one.
As the video intentionally highlights, Quora is hiring aggressively to fulfill this mission “through whatever it takes” and looking to fill product-development positions in engineering, product management, data science and design. If you’re interested, you can find its Careers page here.