StackOverflow announced yesterday that our firm Union Square Ventures led a $6mm round of financing in their company yesterday. My partner Brad is joining Stack's board and he will post about this investment on sometime this week. 

However, given Kid Mercury's persistent advocacy of niche communities here at AVC, I thought I'd make a couple remarks.

Stack makes StackExchange, a hosted software solution for creating niche communities. It is the software that powers the super popular StackOverflow community for programmers and also communities like ServerFault (for sys admins), SuperUser (for tech enthusiasts), MathOverflow (for math geeks), and many more.

These communities are all about helping each other out. You want to know the magnitude of graham's number? Well then head over to MathOverflow and ask the question and get some help. You want to know about LVM Mirroring vs Raid 1? Then head over to ServerFault and ask the question and get some help.

We think this is a powerful new take on the broadly popular Q&A model on the web. You can go to Yahoo! Answers, Mahalo, or Quora and ask any question. But our bet is vertical communities will make better Q&A sites in the long run as people aggregate around what they know and what they need to know.

So if you have a niche community that is vibrant and in need of a Q&A solution, then look for StackExchange 2.0 which is coming soon. 

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#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Julien

    It’s a great investment! I’m a really a big fan of SO and bros. You mention competing services and I would love to see more integration between them. It just doesn’t add up for me to ask the same question 5 times. I guess they could probably aggregate the questions from each other as well as the answers?The winning platform would then be the one that does the best job at showing me the best answer, rather than the one with the biggest network effect!

  2. reece

    I loved their post and the quote you shared earlier:”And the best answer we could come up with was, let’s make the damn thing free, and get some VC somewhere to pay for it.”Good funny announcement overall. Congrats to SO and all involved.

    1. fredwilson

      they have a great sense of humorthat’s a big asset in a companyfeedburner was funny too and it worked so well for themtwitter has a bit of that too in biz and now dick

      1. reece

        Totally agree – humor’s a must.Startups can be stressful – whether dealing with the tech, the business, thecustomers etc – and you’ve just got to laugh at it all sometimes.

        1. fredwilson

          good idea for a blog post actuallythanks for spurring that thought

          1. reece

            Any time.

          2. ShanaC

            Can we add all time favorite humorous moments to that post?

          3. Donna Brewington White

            May be one of your most important posts to date — the one inspired by reecepacheco’s comment, that is.

        2. Tereza

          Curses! I totally disagree.Too much fun and then you’ll want to do illogical things like go to work early and stay late, have a spring in your step, retain really good people, have races to reach milestones, and really believe in the big vision.This behavior should be STOPPED IMMEDIATELY.It marks the beginning of the end (of sh*tty companies everywhere).BTW I’m on the lookout for investors that have a sense of humor. Is there such a thing? I get and greatly respect the whole “steward the funds” and “generate outsized returns” thing. Totally. But it strikes me that a lot of the spirit of hacking and being a fly on the ass of a problem and then taking the whole system down is inherently funny. You’d want your financial partner to get that, no?

          1. reece

            Ha… well done.

          2. robertavila

            I think we both know the difference between consulting firms where having fun was a big part of the culture and ones where having fun was all but forbidden. As you know I am a big believer that legally driven HR systems (stifle all creativity now lest you be sued later) are crippling companies everywhere. It would be interesting to develop a fun quotient to rank businesses and compare that to their performance…

          3. Tereza

            Blech, don’t even get me started on the Death Eaters.When was the last time you met someone from HR who was actually funny? <<knock knock=”” …=”” helllooo!=”” anybody=”” in=”” there?=””>>Actually I can think of one. She’s brilliant, funny, perceptive and a totally strategic asset.Maybe that would be how a breakthrough new HR outsourcing firm should position their unique sense of humor:”We’re people you won’t mind working with!”or”We’re like root canal….with benefits!”

          4. ShanaC

            I was once told to do HR- I don’t think they know I am secretly mean….

          5. Mark Essel

            *a fly lands on Shana’s arm**Shana looks around to make sure no one notices**Shana pulls the wings off of the fly and laughs with glee*Meany! now we know the truth

          6. ShanaC

            It’s more like I’m terribly honest. As in terrible and honest at the sametime. As in “Those brochures- we don’t really serve the free coke….”I don’t pull wings off of bugs, though I do get fascinated by moths (*mothgoes by, gets distracted*)

          7. Donna Brewington White

            Ahem! Thought I should speak up here seeing that I am, technically, in the HR sphere (although I keep forgetting that — was too entrepreneurial to make it in corporate HR). Don’t you think I’m funny?Don’t answer that.

          8. Tereza

            You’re casting the net too broadly there. I’m talking the corporate apparatchik types, the ones that say no to everything.Hell yeah, you’re funny. And I like the smile on your avatar, to boot.And don’t you do search? That’s a whole different ball of wax.If we count search, then I can think of 3. You’re one of ’em.:-)

          9. Donna Brewington White

            Thank you for saying that search is another ball of wax. I like to think so.You keep me laughing! Amazing how you throw in those zingers in the midst of such profundity!

          10. Mark Essel

            Robert you have a new job boards startup!

          11. Donna Brewington White

            I would tend to think you’d find a high correlation between fun and performance. Although I’ve been in settings where fun was an escape rather than built into the culture and that seems to have the opposite effect on productivity/performance. Interestingly some of the companies that you would think should be fun — e.g., certain toy companies — are anything but. You can pretty much look at the CEO and tell whether a company is fun or not. It’s not HR that sets the tone. Here is the deal with HR: If HR’s place in a company is fear-motivated then you’ll have a legally-driven HR system and my guess is that this fear motivation will be found in other areas of the company as well and definitely at the top. Fear is destructive. Plain as that.

          12. robertavila

            I think you are right that a fear driven organization will implement a feared system In smaller organizations I am certain that the CEO would probably understand the impacts of a system and it would tend to reflect his intentions. In larger organizations The HR system is generally sold on very positive grounds about how it is going to improve employee moral, performance etc. but as I have seen in too many organizations where the formalist implementation may not have been what the CEO was told would happen. I know that this is your field and you have more expertise than my casual empiricism. Would to know you thoughts in more detail.

          13. Donna Brewington White

            Thanks, Robert.Actually, as an executive recruiter I am not really an HR expert even though I did spend my formative years in corporate HR — more on the technical side as a compensation analyst. However I probably think a lot about some of the things you would hope an HR expert would think about — how to attract and retain top talent and create environments where people thrive and make a maximum contribution.I do know there are fabulous HR people out there who are truly strategic business partners to the executive team. However, I also know that the type you have observed from “casual empiricism” run rampant.I’m not willing to let the CEO off the hook for having a shabby HR function, even in a large organization. You wouldn’t let him/her off the hook for a poor marketing effort or shoddy financial management.So while I am not an expert, if you think my insights can help in some way, don’t hesitate to contact me: [email protected]

          14. Mark Essel

            I for one seek out eccentric and good humored people at all times. Whether they’re partners or customers.I’m with you 100% for angels and VCs with a sense of humor πŸ™‚

  3. Elie Seidman

    Congratultions on investing in a killer product and team – SO and Joel are incredibly impressive. BTW, the blog renders oddly on iPad browser.

    1. fredwilson

      yes, i know about the iPad problemwe are going to redo AVC shortlyit’s in progress

      1. MikeSchinkel

        Hope you consider moving to WordPress…BTW, here’s what we are running in Atlanta:

  4. Aviah Laor

    Congrats!Predictions:1. This is going to be USV most significant investment.2. This is a new way to use the web. we had social web etc, this is the new thing: the experts web.3. Too bad the market is taken now. It’s experts web done by experts. The combination of deep understanding in social design, usability, business and software engineering under one roof of stack-exchange is mind blowing. Even creepy.4. Joel, Jeff and their team will provide quiet a few lessons about the misconception that “startups can be started only by young people”.5. Stack-exchange added value vs. posting nonsense on the FB wall? you see the potential.6. They probably could pick any VC, and still went with USV.

    1. fredwilson

      i love the positioning of the “expert web” vs the “social web”i am going to use that if you don’t mind Aviah

      1. Aviah Laor

        off course.

    2. Tereza

      I really like the Expert Web too and for sure am going to use that too. Crediting you, of course.I need to get to know them better to learn how they do what they do but one observation is that if they can figure out how to help their participants make money off their participation then it would really be en fuego. I think that’s the future and I’m a bit obsessed with it at the moment.

      1. fredwilson

        They do that tereza. There is a jobs site on the back end of stackoverflow. The users with the best reputations get the most job offers

        1. Tereza

          Do you plan an AvcOverflow so we can make $ off our fabulous comments. πŸ™‚

          1. kidmercury

            oh i just saw this comment…..looks like we’re on the same page regarding getting paid to participate! i’ve been trying to talk fred into letting me build fredland so we can all get paid, but looks like he wants to hog all the revenue so he can give it to charity. pfft.

          2. Tereza

            Charity shmarity.

          3. ShanaC

            I don’t want a Fredland. I don’t think we are in the natural state here….

          4. kidmercury

            fredland could serve to complement the experience here, not replace. itwould be a wonderful land where fredlanders could network, share knowledge,conduct business in a trusted environment. and of course it would beentirely optional, so if you would like to deprive yourself the right tonetwork with some of the best internet business folks in a trustedenvironment, you would be free to do so.

          5. Leland

            Kidmercury we have something in development that might allow something like this to be possible. Don’t give up on the idea. ^_^

          6. ShanaC

            Does it have to be a real land then- or it could it be like a secretnightclub…

        2. Leland

          Awesome Fred.

      2. kidmercury

        i agree that is the future. some day, we’ll get paid to participate in fredland! hopefully in fredbucks!

        1. Aviah Laor

          so you quit the gold standard? πŸ˜€

          1. kidmercury

            i have not 100% advocated a return to the gold standard, i do think however it should be considered, along with other options. i have said the gold standard is better than the current system, which is basically overt theft. related to this thread, though, perhaps fredbucks will some day be on a gold standard — though that is unlikely as fred doesn’t like gold….yet. once the magnitude of this theft becomes fully realized then folks will love gold, the ultimate defender of property rights. judging by recent price action looks like more and more folks are starting to like gold.

          2. Aviah Laor

            than it’s GovernmentFault. But fixing MySql is easier.

          3. Aviah Laor

            at least you have the root password to begin with

    3. Mark Essel

      Score one for pushing me over the hype bubble Aviah. Your comment quelshed any nagging doubts I had about where Joel and crew are going. I wonder where they will spend the raised funds…

      1. Aviah Laor

        It’s a tectonic shift. This is only the tip of iceberg, trust me.We had a few years where everybody understood everything about everything all the time, but (thanks god) this is the beginning of the end of that era.

        1. ShanaC

          No we don’t- the real next step is stack overflow + school. Or stack overflow + mba monday. That sort of thing. It’s not experts to experts, it’s how do you drive training and then hiring, since stack overflow shows that training and hiring is not a school thing.before you let Andrew go Fred, ask him in detail about his experiences vis a vis USV, wikipedia, and training. As odd as it sounds, he’s sort of textbook for theories about StackOverflow. The question is the sourcing-training-gap*-hiring model.How do you bridge that gap is the question StackOverflow needs to ask themsleves, since essential to print themselves in a variety of industries as _____Overflow, they have to ask what gap= in the way of training and knowledge and what the difference is in questions versus answers. And how to handle that vis a vis employers. Can’t take real people out of this.

          1. Aviah Laor

            It’s an interesting idea, Shana. Both SO and MBA monday are relevant to beginners and pros in many levels. Certainly challenging idea for schooling. Maybe it’s a modern application of apprentice learning?.However, still think it’s a major shift, since there is a big difference between fun and professional, or at least a serious attempt to go a little deeper. Not everything can be crowd-sourced to everybody (and a 5 minutes walk in MathOverflow can quickly make it clear for the rest of us :D)

          2. ShanaC

            Ah MathOverflow. And yes it is a major shift, and we don’t know how it will play out (however I think it is one that will trickle down to MathOverflow- I do think one of the bigger problems in math is how we teach it. A lot of the early learning is mechanicalistic.I mean, if I can figure out that for this piece of code: while( i<it.length){ i++;=”” if(whichline%7=”” !=”3){” fill(166,=”” 5,=”” 178);=”” }if(whichline%5=”” !=”4){” fill(61,=”” 121,=”” 33);=”” }=”” if(whichline%13=”” !=”6){” fill(252,=”” 55,=”” 113);=”” some=”” more=”” stuff=”” }=”” ect=”” is=”” all=”” modulus=”” math=”” and=”” logic=”” based=”” off=”” of=”” cryptonomicon=”” and=”” a=”” very=”” primitive=”” understanding=”” of=”” coding,=”” but=”” i=”” can’t=”” figure=”” out=”” the=”” rate=”” by=”” myself-=”” then=”” we’re=”” teaching=”” math=”” wrong.=”” really=”” wrong.=”” i’m=”” willing=”” to=”” say=”” that=”” aloud.=”” and=”” it=”” makes=”” me=”” want=”” to=”” go=”” back=”” and=”” take=”” math=”” courses-=”” however=”” they=”” are=”” not=”” sane=”” and=”” fun-=”” no=”” one=”” gets=”” excited=”” about=”” them.=”” but=”” i=”” want=”” to=”” solve=”” damn=”” fun=”” problems….=””>

          3. fredwilson

            i know all about andrew’s MBA. i gave him many of the assignments that he solved using wikipedia. he is a perfect example of the DIY MBA.

          4. ShanaC

            Correct- and as a result, he’s a perfect model for what might be withStackOverflow et al- or at least what one point looks like.Now if there were only more DIY school options, like MBAs. Or partialengineering. Or Art. That’s all….

        2. Leland

          Q and A has been around for a long time. It would be nice in the original article to get a breakdown on the revolutionary/new things stackoverflow has going for it vs all of the answer and Q/A websites already out there.

          1. Aviah Laor

            here is a detailed talk by Joel Spolsky. In short, it’s the opposite of the “minimum viable product” approach. They didn’t have to iterate since they had 20 years of experience and understood the developer’s Q&A issues inside-out, and the first version was 90% of what you see now. They will have to iterate though for other domains, but since they decided to open a new community only with a minimum seed of experts they will get the relevant feedback quickly.

  5. RichardF

    That’s an impressive list of investors.Quote from Joel on the blog:”One of them (VC’s), Brad Burnham, suggested that we don’t hard code our revenue model too early. If the platform creates value for a lot of people, he told us, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to make money that actually make the site better.”A recurring theme then.

  6. kidmercury

    very nice. i think these guys are very close to the the formula…..CC licensing, niche communities, badges…..only one ingredient missing…..virtual currency! oh and federation, my new buzz word. i hope others will join me in trying to make that a new buzz word.i also like how they are not going with the “start a niche community in 20 seconds almost by accident!” approach that is common of many VC-backed companies who are basically asking for google to come in and give them a serious ass whupping. their more thoughtful approach will serve them very well IMHO, even if it means missing out on lots of users (in exchange for getting the right users in the right environment).”The content of these new, community-created Stack Exchange sites will be publicly owned under a Creative Commons license, instead of being owned by individuals or businesses.”but who is issuing the license? presumably stackexchange? which means stackexchange sort of owns the content, as they can change the licensing….not hating on this — in fact i love it as i basically do the same thing with my site — though i think it sets the stage for some potentially interesting, and perhaps precedent-setting, legal cases. i do love the fact that they are trying to create a truly public good here, the kind that is typically created by offline governments…..

    1. Dan Lewis

      Presumably, StackExchange would have a notice on the submission box which states that you, the question asker/answerer, agree to license your content under a CC license and/or bury that in the Terms of Use/Service. (That’s basically what Wikipedia does.)The value of owning the content, from StackExchange’s perspective, is minimal.

      1. kidmercury

        Yeah that is what I did with my site — buried it in the TOS. Ultimately if users trust you I don’t think it is a problem. Earning and keeping that trust is the real issue IMHO.I expect stack will want to syndicate/remix the content at some point, at which point having the license to do so — and to define the terms by which attribution is required for those who republish — will be quite valuable.

        1. Mark Essel

          New vertical search engine?Just hit the search exchange portal

    2. Mark Essel

      Oh maybe they will introduce a way to monetize your own great answers, or exchange your rep points or cash!

      1. Tereza

        Truth Pointz!

      2. fredwilson

        They have one model for that already. A jobs site where your reputation matters. But they will most certainly develop others

        1. Mark Essel

          I wasn’t aware, very groovy.The virtual points that don’t matter begin to matter. I hope they’re difficult to “game” then!

    3. fredwilson

      They sort of have virtual currencies. On the back end of stackoverflow is a jobs site and the user’s reputation is a big part of how they are represented in the jobs site. So basically the better reputation you have in the community the more job offers you get

      1. nvr

        But does this have any meat in it? I mean, you can slap a jobs board to any website that has a techie following. Reddit has, even Digg has it. The question is, do the empoyers get more value for their dollar by advertising at Stackoverflow?

        1. Leland

          The key point here is a reputation system that actually means something. Reputation is in direct correlation with your ability to correctly assist with tech problems (though it’s a bit rough). Places like reddit and Digg do not have meaningful reputation systems in relation to someones personal ability to solve problems.So thats where the value of their dollar comes from. If i were stackoverflow, i would be charging a premium for access to a pool of high reputation users.

          1. nvr

            I am a bit skeptical about the karma points being an indicator of people’s qualities. It might as well mean the person in question is wasting his time on SO to help other people, instead of doing work.I was just wondering what the market thinks about this. Do companies see value in this and are they ready to pay a premium? Any data backing up the premise, or is it just a big assumption.

          2. Frank Costanza

            It’s a highly transparent and visible way to see how someone helps solve problems.

    4. Donna Brewington White

      …was that frederation?

  7. LIAD

    out of nowhere Stack Overflow has become my developers most used “go-to-when-pulling-your-hair-out” site.Expert niche information has instant utility and is great for customer acquisition. Intrinsic game mechanics great for lock-in and customer retention.The fact that the content is extraordinarily seo-able doesn’t hurt eitherThe format is applicable to endless niches and micro-niches. – they do however need to get themselves a super UI designer ASAP.

    1. fredwilson

      I think they know that they can improve the UI

      1. MikeSchinkel

        I prefer the UI. Nice and simple, like Google.

    2. Leland

      Intrinsic game mechanics? It would be nice if you elaborated on your train of thought here Liad.

      1. LIAD

        they very actions of using stack overflow as the developers intended (i.e. answering questions properly and being helpful and courteous to other users etc) are encouraged using game mechanics. specifically earning points and getting badges -… – which all read to a ranking and hierarchical system – which if you think about it is exactly what playing and winning a game is all aboutthe developers have created a system where customers doing what they want them to provides the customer with instant gratification and the platform with increased value. – fyi –

    3. MikeSchinkel

      “out of nowhere Stack Overflow has become my developers most used “go-to-when-pulling-your-hair-out” site.”I’ve had exactly the same experience. Moreso, I find that if I search and a StackOverflow link comes up in Google that the likelihood it will actually answer my question is much higher than any other site.

  8. Dan Lewis

    You should look at the history of Wikia. It started (as in, communities which wanted wikis needed to pass a review process) the same way as StackExchange, I think, minus the initial paid-for era. In fact, you could make a pretty solid analogy: Wikia is to Wikipedia what StackExchange could be to Yahoo! Answers.That said, here are some things I learned which may apply:1) Don’t fool yourself into thinking that they’re creating niche communities with StackExchange. They’re not. They’re creating a one-size-fits-all platform which, well, won’t fit all. That’s not a bad thing, though. Just come to terms with it early and focus on demographics which match the demographics of your current sites.2) Ownership matters to a lot of people. Having *my* baseball Q&A site is different from participating in a community one, and a lot of the “mys” can create an effective one better than a follower. (Imagine, for example, if you, Fred, created a VC Q&A site under the banner.) You’ll cross that bridge at some point, so keep it in mind.3) Someone is always in control of the community. The myth that a community runs itself is just that — a myth. There’s always a leader, be it an individual or a group. The leader may change based on the issue or the week. One community leader’s style and mindset is different from another’s. Any change you make will be met with complaints, which is expected. What you’ll not expect? The type, tone, and intensity of a lot of the complaints. Take some Tums before you announce.

    1. Mark Essel

      The wealth model of dedicated Q&A sites is important. I much prefer Mahalo’s to StackExchange. If you’re going to make a profit from crowd knowledge, you should likely share revenue with those who make it a place worth visiting.Otherwise it feels like crowd stealing to me.Office space one penny transaction at a time.

      1. Dan Lewis

        I once agreed. I don’t anymore, and haven’t for a while.People participate in communities for lots of reasons. Financial gainis just one of the many. Many of the other reasons are amorphous,but not all of them. A person who asks a question on StackOverflowprobably does so because of an honest desire to get an answer, but aperson who answers does so because of a list of reasons too personalto the individual to try and list. Either way, though, this allhappens because the participants choose to participate.Mahalo strikes me as a platform where the non-pecuniary reasons toparticipate are small, so you almost have to pay people to join.That seems like a bad thing.

        1. Mark Essel

          Appreciate the counterview Dan.If I induce you to contribute, and profit from your contribution, I may attempt to share the wealth I’ve earned from your effort. I hope you wouldn’t hold that against me πŸ˜‰

        2. kidmercury

          i don’t doubt that mahalo is likely to get quite embarrassed by stackoverflow, though i think the non-monetization route is dangerous. if you don’t share revenue, it can be tougher to explicitly seek revenue — to commercialize to the max. you may get resentment from users who will feel exploited. if you take VC money, i think you sort of have an obligation to be pretty revenue-driven.i believe, however, that the right community management system can yield a “best of both worlds” result.

    2. fredwilson

      Great advice. They are learning this. Looking at wikia is a great idea

    3. aleemb

      I would have to disagree with you regarding these points. Sites powered by StackExchange rely on a couple of things, of which StackOverflow is a a great example:1. Initial seeding needs to happen at the highest level. StackOverflow has contributions from high ranking developers. StackExchange is just a platform not a community in itself. So how good of a community you can create using that platform is really up to you. You could have a great community within a usenet group for all that matters.2. The platform takes lessons from game design. The biggest motivator is to be recognized and the point system goes a long way providing that. Peer approval and recognition is also a great motivator. You could be a leader in a general or a very niche category. You can take your badge with you or point a potential employer or client to it. It really encourages community participation and ownership is based on meritocracy rather than being a founder. Your status elevates with the number of points you collect.3. Community platforms are evolving toward a democratic, autonomous systems. StackExchange is a big step in that direction. For example, if you have marked a 100 comments as spam and on each on of them at least a dozen people confirm your vote then you have a high reputation and in the future when you mark a comment as spam it can be dropped with really high probability unless a person with equal rank un-spams it. It is sort of what page rank is to the web ranking, albeit, it has a long way to go still. But the idea is definitely around having self-moderated communities where leaders emerge on their own merit and knowledge of the niche.

  9. jonsteinberg

    Stack is a fantastic product that almost every developer I know uses to query error messages they get. The ubiquity as a resource is stunning. Congrats to Joel and USV.

    1. kenberger

      our team (at East Agile) is checking this out, might start to contribute (on the answers side).

  10. andyswan

    They could also start a “really cool names and domains for your business” consulting unit. Very nice.

    1. fredwilson

      I like serverfault the best

    2. kidmercury

      hopefully paypal is their first client

      1. andyswan


  11. Mark Essel

    Super move, while reading Joel’s blog I was pretty excited about what he and his partners have planned for stack exchange as I’ve referred to Stack Overflow many times, and moderate at to hear about all the goodies Joel has planned here or Brad’s blog first.I never got into the game mechanics as a user though, as first answerers or folks that live on those forums appear to suck up all the upvotes. In addition I could be writing those answers on my blog as opposed to outsourcing value to the site owner. Now if answers got a lion’s share of the revenue and marketing juice back to their own domains it would be different ;). I’m a value exchange type of guy.

    1. Joe Siewert

      Completely agree with you on the game mechanics perspective.

    2. Leland

      Mark how do your comments/posts always hit upon exactly what I happen to be thinking of at the time?? Honestly as I was reading your comment I was also thinking about where the value exchange lies. Reading your comment puts the entire service in a different light. And as you know, I am always interested in talking about game theory/systems applied on the internet. :)In parallel with your comment, I would agree that it is important for stackoverflow to allow their reputation system and answers to flow back onto exterior blogs / twitter accounts / facebook /wherever. If I am going to spend the time to answer a difficult question, there should at least be a visible option for my domain to get some extra “marketing juice” as you said. ^_^Following this line of thought, perhaps the future of Q/A systems lies in a website/blog link system instead of a central repository? For example, you post a question on the website ( and then that question is relayed to blogs/websites that want to participate in your Q/A system. If a blog/website wants to answer the question, then they can do so on their blog.However… I can’t see users wanting to leave the Q/A website to go to some exterior blog. So perhaps Q/A will work better the way stackoverflow is doing it right now? It would be nice to share revenue and marketing juice back to individuals… but how? hmm.Outsourcing of value indeed.

      1. Mark Essel

        Brilliant!The network could pull in “frames” of the solution or perhaps the feed with a link at the bottom. Then popular answers should get better link juice as only the best answer or three would get the link show?

  12. Dave Pinsen

    “StackExchange” must make a Jets fan like you think of the old Sack Exchange.

    1. fredwilson

      It sure does

      1. Mark Essel

        Dave’s memory is such that if he continues to read my blog, I fear he’ll know more about me than me (I’m forgetful) which is frightening, but at the same time a strategic advantage as long as I keep in Dave’s good graces.I was big fan of the Jets when Mark Gastineau played D, because we shared a name.

  13. Dan Ramsden

    Congratulations, this is a really interesting one. And especially so as another good deal for the NYC community to point to. I’m curious, but may be too soon to ask: Is the longer term opportunity in the data? A little bit like Hunch?

    1. fredwilson

      I wasn’t thinking that wayI like what they are doing with jobsI think they can do more things like that

  14. kirklove

    I really like this idea. I’ll admit I had never heard of it until I read Marco’s post on Tumblr yesterday. If he is saying this team is impressive, they must be.The web is going to move toward niche (it already has actually) and strong vertical communities are the future. Facebook Open Graph is nice and all, perfect for my mom and dad, but for niche subjects you simply need niche expertise. You crave it if you are passionate about a subject. A page out of the FUBU (for us by us) manual if you will.From an investment standpoint I like it a lot too, because while the market may seem small at first, you can potentially corner each vertical, and once you build it once you can overlay onto any number of verticals and corner them, too. Smart move. Best of luck with it.

    1. kidmercury

      yup…..i agree…..also off-topic, but any thoughts on the mcnabb trade? i have accepted the decision to rebuild. i think the next few years will be tough. would have preferred to see andy reid leave.

      1. kirklove

        I like the trade actually. And you are talking to a McNabb (and sorry Reid fan). McNabb never seemed capable of winning the big game. Not sure why. So yes we’ll be taking a few steps backward (maybe more than a few), but it was time. The team in its previous state was good, real good, but would have never been great let alone Super Bowl champs. We’ll see.Right now I’m in full-on baseball mode though and delighted the Phils gave the Mets a beat down over the weekend and made national news for a taser incident. Gotta love Philly!

        1. kidmercury

          yes! go phillies! we should go to the world series again this year.

          1. Gorilla44

            In your dreams. The Phillies string of seasons not affected by injuries is ending this year. Rollins will be out for a long time.Also, they crippled their future by signing Howard to that ridiculous contract. If he is worth $25M per season, then Pujols is worth $60M per.Let’s go Mets go.

          2. kidmercury

            i agree the howard contract was a mistake. i would like to see howard offthe phillies. if he ever plays for a team that doesn’t have a little leaguefield like the phillies do, we’ll see the home runs fall off sharply.but who is going to stop the phils? the mets? lol. the mets beat themselvesevery year. 2010 will be no exception. it will be embarrassing.

  15. Josh Payne

    Things that piqued my interest here:1) The fact that Joel Spolsky, probably the most prominent “bootstrap your business without VC” advocate I can think of, taking VC money. Kudos to Joel for adapting to each unique situation.2) This is the intersection of my first “must read blogger” (Joel) with my current (Fred)

    1. Sean Kaye

      I literally posted something similar to your first comment. Joel held such defined views about how to run a software business. I think StackOverflow is a potential huge win and I think FogBugz (while an awesome product) is never going to be a big pay day so if it means re-adjusting what you think and trying something different – good on Joel for having a crack.I just don’t know how he can run two businesses at once.

      1. fredwilson

        he is not going to run both of them. he is going to focus on stackoverflow

  16. Sean Kaye

    I find StackOverflow interesting from an entrepreneurship perspective.Joel Spolsky has (in the past at least) had some fairly defined views about running a software business and creating software. Many of these ideas seem a little bit counter-cultural for a business that has scrapped its revenue model, pulled in some VC money and is now going to see how things shake out and work out where revenue is going to come from in some kind of organic way.Also, so much of what you hear from VCs is about how key the founders are and their commitment, passion, drive, motivation and those kind of things are keys to what makes a VC invest in a business. The other big factor that most early stage VCs talk about is backing winners with a track record.Those points all lead me to FogCreek Software. Last time I checked, Joel was still CEO of FogCreek and Michael Pryor was still President. Isn’t it somewhat in-congruent that they can be 100% dedicated and working on StackOverflow and be 100% committed and working on FogCreek? How is that going to work? As an investor, that had to come into your decision making process, how did you resolve it?Fascinating investment.

    1. ShanaC

      StackOverflow is something very different though- It’s something that right now I am getting pointed to all the time, and am heasant to use (learning to code, natch), but has a lot of ttraction across a wide spectrum of users. FogCreek is niche software for those who need it- not everyone is going to needa Bug Tracking Suite like FogBuzz or version control software (what is that?) like Kiln. That’s pretty specific.The software that runs stack overflow is not. You can print it and see what people will do with it.Now I need to be less scared of it….

      1. Sean Kaye

        I think the idea of Stack Overflow has plenty of legs both as a “service” but also as an investment. It is a great source of knowledge and the participation of the user base is both plentiful and of a high quality.With that said, being a CEO of a software startup is hard, I’ve done it. It takes serious time to grow your business and manage the development. I’m from the Jason Calacanis school of thought that says, “You might be smarter than me, but I can totally out work you”. I think that work effort and serious time commitment is required for all software startups, especially one that just took $6m of VC and chucked their existing revenue model in the bin.So how do people like Joel and Mike Pryor manage to do two 40+ hour jobs per week? Unless Stack Overflow has some cloning technology I’m not aware of, these guys can only do one thing at a time.

        1. fredwilson

          see my previous reply. good question.

    2. Sean Kaye

      As a sort of follow-on to this original comment…We hear plenty about VCs who really love founders with skin in the game, it shows stronger commitment. Doesn’t a situation like this where the founder/CEO and CFO have an alternative successful business running concurrently present the opposite perspective? If things start to go badly for Stack Overflow then you’ve got a situation where the CEO and CFO could just drift back into their comfortable, successful, albeit less ambitious business where they have no VCs to worry about.Is that a consideration?

    3. fredwilson

      joel is going to focus on stack while michael and the rest of the fogcreek team will focus on fogcreek

  17. onsip

    Very cool, Fred. Building on the “expert web” idea (props to Aviah), are there plans for more intricate user profiles?Also – there’s lots of global software development talent. Maybe a language translation tool? Could be good; could create a mess.

  18. ShanaC

    I do think attaching a job board to the questions and answers is a smart idea- it allows people to see how a person is developing. Now how do I convince myself to use it, considering I’ve been told to use the damn thing multiple times…Or get over newby fear???

    1. Graham Siener

      In theory you should be looking for questions to answer — that will help you build your “rep.” You should also figure out a question that you haven’t been able to answer on your own. Search for that at SO and if you don’t find it, post it. And make sure to give credit to the person who answers!

      1. ShanaC

        I know already I don’t have questions to answer. I’m too new to this (thereare newby people there) That’s why the thing scares me. I remember beingnew here- and I had to do a ton of research to get up to speed. And I stilldo (like on the nuances on term-sheets and on some of the math believe it ornot)I realize in the back of my head if I use it, I’ll eventually be able tocontribute- weird huh…the other issue is that if you are driven by smalllanguages, I’m not sure how much help I am going to get…

        1. Graham Siener

          Hmm. That begs the question, what do you want to learn? Maybe you should pick a small project to get started with X (django, sinatra, etc) and visit SO every time you get stuck. It will then become immediately useful, with the bonus that you can potentially help all the other newbies get up to speed since it’s still fresh in your head.As for small languages, I was actually able to find a bunch of answers regarding a rarely used industrial protocol I had to interact with (modbus). Found enough to point me in the right direction.

          1. ShanaC

            I’m working on a small project now in processing- but I realized I’ll killprocessing as soon as possible to move to the ruby wrap after quarter’sover! (I got the worse of the bugs out I think, now it is on to handling themath)

          2. Graham Siener

            Maybe you should check out Math Overflow?

          3. ShanaC

            Love it!!! (must send to a friend)But this is more like- what makes for the pretties/scariest math if I wantto make you look at…and it’s lyrics here…I just realized I have to make a separate class to that I can have all thelyrics print then clear the screen, ’cause that’s pretty in a weird sort ofart logic sense. I decided they were weirdly funny- if I can figure out howto display them in my “fake” java (processing) and then figure out how toturn my program into a nice printable dvd so I can put it onto a tv*snickers* (And that is what I mean by when I say, I am mean- I have noconniptions about making fun of such peculiarities of media logic)

  19. steve cheney

    For anyone who wants insight into StackOverflow, Joel and company run a great series of podcasts on company direction, philosophy on communities etc. Sort of an audio twist on Joel’s prolific blogging historyhttp://blog.stackoverflow.c…

  20. cyanbane

    I use SO daily, and one of the things that I really enjoyed about it at the beginning was that it seemed like the entire site was created because of the dislike of a way another site went about doing things. A similar emotion I shared, so I was eager to see it succeed and I think other people were too. It was a great rallying point for the initial users and a great launching pad. It was also a very interesting thing to observe. After seeing it happen I can easily see how the same type effort could be applied to 600 lb gorillaz in other places (social networks, search, etc). SO was a great product but also an amazing use of timing, which is exciting because I see other “dislike-portals/timings” opening up now (in the areas I mentioned above).

  21. kidmercury

    hey boss. slight tangent, but if you liquidated your investment in mahalo, it would really make it a lot easier to magnify your beef with jdawg via stackoverflow, and collect lots of laughs as a result. something to think about boss.

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t know how to do that. plus selling is hard for me. i’m one of those investors who is good at buying but horrible at selling. i’m working on that in my old age.

  22. Andy

    been saying this for years. This post from 2008 in particular speaks exactly to this point;

  23. Denny Ferrassoli

    Win! I’m a huge fan of SO! I’ve been using it for quite some time. Biggest draw for me is the access to experts and the quick turn-around on answers. Good catch for USV!

  24. Satish Mummareddy

    Any chance there will be a AVC meetup before May26? Moving to the left coast after that. πŸ™‚

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t think so. and you are bringing up exactly the reason i don’t do it. i really don’t want to do it in NYC and disadvantage all the readers all over the world.

      1. Satish Mummareddy

        Fair Enough. πŸ™‚

  25. Morgan Warstler

    Education. What I like about stackoverflow is that I think it will prove over time that on any given subject there are a limited number of questions, but those questions get asked in a multitude of ways.And actually recognizing when the same question is being asked differently is as powerful as recognizing there are different best answers based on who the questioner is.

    1. fredwilson

      i agree that this is our first “hacking education” investment.

  26. Keith B. Nowak

    Everyone is an expert in something and I agree that organizing Q&A sites by expertise will produce a better (more accurate answers, faster time to an answer, etc.) experience for people with questions. If I have a question about my car I will go to the local garage for an answer and not to a place where I hope mechanics will be hanging out. I know – a new student-focused social recruiting site – is also working off this trend by building out an extensive Q&A platform where students can connect around questions about industries, companies, interview tips, etc. This will create a niche community perfectly tailored to a particular user base and will give students with questions the best way to connect with people who have the answers.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      From the little I know about marketing to that age-segment, that is a brilliant way to get them engaged — you’ve got to give them something.

  27. Donna Brewington White

    Was going to sit this one out and let the technical types (i.e., those who “get” this and have something valuable to contribute) have at it, but wanted to pipe in to say “congratulations” — another amazing USV investment! I can see lots of potential for this outside the technical world — although I guess it can get all the play it needs in that one arena alone!

  28. Aviah Laor

    In 50K view, it’s more “info oriented”, so it’s more Google oriented, rather than FB. Google tried to go there with Google Knol, but they didn’t (as usual) cracked the conversation side. But they should be happy nevertheless.

  29. Radu Prisacaru

    Fantastic blog. Keep on rockin, Radu Prisacaru – UK Internet Marketer & Web Developer

  30. Kyle

    Would it be inappropriate to draw the analogy to what Ning was trying to do versus Facebook?

  31. MikeSchinkel

    Hi Fred,I love the site StackOverflow. Recently it’s answered a lot of questions for me.OTOH, I looked into using their service for a community I wanted to host and found it to be far too expensive to support a startup community and was very disenchanted by that. But maybe it’s only for those who have the funds to devote to building a community, and maybe that’s why you invest in them?However, given their pricing models I wouldn’t be surprised to find an open-source alternative emerge to compete with them. I’m assuming you’ve considered that competitive challenge. Care to share your thoughts?

    1. MikeSchinkel

      Oops!!! I guess I should have done some reading of the links before I posted. I just read this:http://blog.stackexchange.c…It answered all my questions. These guys are going to kick ass.