Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Stealthy Start-Up Sponge Builds Community Q&A for Companies

Q&A is a buzzy tech topic these days–see Twitter’s Fluther deal yesterday (though Twitter didn’t acquire the Fluther Q&A product, only its personnel)–but here’s a start-up trying to stay out of the spotlight, despite some high-profile backers. Sponge, which calls itself “the future of Q&A,” powers pages for businesses to share and build community knowledge.

In practice, Sponge appears to be a sort of community-sourced FAQ, where both representatives of a company and users can answer questions posed by users. You can see an example here, for the venture capital firm True Ventures.

Sponge seems somewhat similar to customer service plug-in Get Satisfaction, but with a focus on creating content that will engage an audience on the company’s own site. There’s also a company called Opzi that’s working on “Quora for the enterprise,” though it seems more oriented toward internal communications.

True Ventures, incidentally, appears to have led a $500,000 seed funding round for Sponge this past spring, which also included Matt Mullenweg’s Audrey Capital.

Sponge is led by CEO Krutal Desai, who had previously been with ACS, the SEO and social media advisory company that had helped many top blogs grow their traffic significantly a couple of years back. Web developer Henry Khachatryan is also a co-founder.

According to a published bio for Desai, Sponge was founded in 2009 after he graduated from UC Berkeley, and its customers include Intuit, Eventbrite, Vespa, TechStars and the Red Cross. The company maintains an active blog about building online communities.

Here’s how Sponge describes itself:

Sponge powers question and answer communities for brands, media outlets, and topical sites. Our Q&A platform enables online communities to ask questions and share answers in a structured manner.

Sponge is a proven, successful leader in developing customized communities around Q&A. Our technology unites traditional social features with question-and-answer functionality to foster knowledge sharing, collaboration, and customer engagement.

We believe we are working on the next generation of online community software that millions of people will use everyday to exchange information.

Q&A has been a field of Web development since at least the early days of Ask Jeeves. After the success of sites like Yahoo Answers, it has surged back again, with Quora, Facebook, many start-ups and even launching social Q&A products in the last year.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work