How Quora Works and Makes Money

What Is Quora?

Quora is a billion-dollar social media startup, funded by hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital. The rapidly growing crowdsourced Q&A platform is reliant on a strong community that provides questions, responses, and up and down votes to create, edit, and organize the growing platform.

Active users include celebrities, CEOs, and other high-profile figures. Initially, Quora had no revenue model. So how does Quora make money? Like most portals, Quora has shifted to earning money through advertisements. Quora is actively courting the advertising market by strategically placing ads so that they appear as part of the content rather than acting as an overt marketing tool.

Key Takeaways

  • Quora is a crowdsourced question and answer platform that is reliant on an active community for content and development.
  • The Palo Alto-based social media platform was launched in 2009 but kicked into higher gear in 2014 when it received $226 million in four funding rounds from 14 investors.
  • Although the company initially had no revenue model, it now makes money through advertisements that are integrated within the questions and answers.

Quora's Inception and Growth

Based in Palo-Alto, Quora was launched in 2009. The development stage of Quora’s platform took approximately nine months, and the portal gained traction as employees invited friends (who in turn invited friends of friends) to join the site.

In 2014, Quora joined the startup accelerator Y Combinator. The Q&A platform has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from investors including Peter Thiel, Tiger Global Management, Josh Hannah, Sam Altman, and others. Some estimates put the value of the company today at over $2 billion.

Quora reported $8 million in revenue in 2018, with more than 300 million unique monthly visitors. The success is due largely in part to Quora's elegant user interface, its initial base of intelligent and committed participants, and its effectiveness in highlighting the most useful and interesting content personalized to individual users.

Quora's content is entirely dependent on the community it cultivates; the community generates questions and provides the answers.

Quora's Vision

Launched by founders Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever, the creators of Quora were on a mission to “share and grow the world’s knowledge.” The social venture's website stated:

A vast amount of the knowledge that would be valuable to many people is currently only available to a few—either locked in people’s heads or only accessible to select groups. We want to connect the people who have the knowledge to the people who need it, to bring together people with different perspectives so that they can understand each other better, and to empower everyone to share their knowledge for the benefit of the rest of the world.

Quora democratizes knowledge on a platform accessible to all, from the lay reader to Mark Cuban and Mark Zuckerberg. The crowdsourced Q&A platform is run entirely by the user community. Users post questions such as “Could two smart computer science Ph.D. students create a search engine that unseats Google?” Users can then follow questions and offer responses.

The Quora community finally votes on an answer, either up or down, similar to the popular social platform Reddit. The answers with the most upvotes are highlighted and viewed the most.

Acquisition of Parlio

Quora acquired the political discussion platform Parlio in March 2016. The deal marked Quora's first and only acquisition to date. Political activist Wael Ghonim founded Parlio in 2014 with $1.68 million in seed funding. Ghonim, who found fame via social media during the Arab Spring, wanted to help readers avoid and identify bias in the media.

The acquisition of Parlio has helped Quora continue to focus on generating quality conversations with experts and a community of enthusiastic learners.

Monetizing Content

In 2021, Quora announced a program to begin allowing its users to earn money from their content. With Quora+, users agree to a $5 per month subscription service (or $50 one-time payment for a full year) to access such paywalled content. These subscription payments will then be allocated and 95% of it distributed to content creators.

This subscription service will exist in parallel to the existing free Q&A and other content, with a business model similar to competitors like Substack and Ghost.

The Bottom Line

The heart of Quora is questions—questions that spark interest, questions that have the power to change the world, or questions that pertain to a particular user’s life. The success of Quora can be attributed to a strong and educated user community, an appealing user interface, and advanced processes that highlight the best responses that directly benefit the user community.

Ultimately, Quora has gained solid traction among its competitors, including Stack Overflow, Dice.com, and HackerRank, which is an attraction for advertisers. However, whether the site's advertising venture becomes a detractor for its visitors remains to be seen.

Article Sources
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  1. BBC. "Quora says 100 million users hacked." Accessed Dec. 9, 2021.

  2. Quora. "Reach 300+ million monthly unique visitors on Quora." Accessed Dec. 9, 2021.

  3. Vox. "Yes, Quora still exists, and it’s now worth $2 billion." Accessed Dec. 9, 2021.

  4. Tech Crunch. "Creators can now monetize their expertise on Quora." Accessed Dec. 9, 2021.

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