“Ex-con” isn’t normally something you find on a founder’s resume. But Google employee Wael Ghonim went to jail for sparking the Egyptian Revolution. Now he might be wearing some golden handcuffs instead, as his startup Parlio just became Quora‘s first acquisition.
Parlio’s goal was to spread knowledge — a similar objective to Quora. But rather than focusing on canonical answers like its acquirer, Parlio sought to host civil discussions that let people hear both sides of an argument and come to their own conclusions.
Parlio also hosts dedicated Q&As with experts and public figures similar to Quora’s new AMA-like Writing Sessions. Ghonim explains the motive behind Parlio, saying “We were concerned about how today’s social media experiences are designed to favor broadcasting over engagement, posts over discussions and shallow comments over deep conversations.”
Now Ghonim and the rest of his founding team will be joining Quora. Users won’t be able to post on Parlio any more starting today, but all published content will live on, and may be republished on Quora. Members can download their content for the next 30 days.
Ghonim entered the spotlight in 2011 after using social media to call fellow Egyptians to protest in the streets. He’d previously started a Facebook Page called “We Are All Khaled Saeed” in support of a man tortured to death by the nation’s police. After using the Page to organize rallies against President Hosni Mubarak, he was secretly imprisoned, and became a hero to the movement upon his release.
Back in the US, Ghonim founded Parlio in 2014 with $1.68 million in seed funding from Betaworks, Founder Collective, Marissa Mayer, Wesley Chan, and other angels. Parlio has lit up recently with discussion of the presidential election, , ISIS, and Cuba.
You can watch an interview with Ghonim and TechCrunch’s Sarah Buhr below.
Parlio’s team could help Quora figure out how to encourage participation from people who might not necessarily have definitive answers to its questions. Making Quora more approachable for the average web surfer could boost view time and help Quora earn revenue once it starts showing ads. Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo commented that “We think Parlio has enabled great conversations with experts and fits well with our mission to share and grow the world’s knowledge.”
Many wrote off Quora as a nerdy, niche knowledge base. Small potatoes. But it’s proven to be the little startup that could. The upvotable question and answer app just hit 100 million monthly unique visitors and is finally preparing to earn some revenue through advertising after 7 years of riding its venture capital. Now Quora will have the talent needed to keep it fresh and bustling with discourse, and avoid becoming some dusty encyclopedia.