Founder and CEO of Quora speaks on internet entrepreneurship and AI

Adam D’Angelo, Founder/CEO of Quora and former Facebook Chief Technology Officer

When Adam D’Angelo was a junior at the California Institute of Technology in 2005, working at a social network wasn’t perceived as a smart career choice. Nonetheless, D’Angelo accepted a role at Facebook.

“One person in particular told me that I should work at a larger company because it would look better on my resume,” said the former Facebook Chief Technology Officer, as he spoke to over 200 Waseda students, faculty and staff in an event held at the Nishiwaseda campus on June 6. “Ultimately, I decided to work at Facebook because I really liked social networking and wanted to make a lot of impact.”

The event, organized by the WASEDA-EDGE Program, mainly focused on internet entrepreneurship and D’Angelo’s vision for how artificial intelligence (AI) technology will drive business in the future. The Q&A session, which was a major part of the event, took a unique form in which the audience members were able to ask D’Angelo questions anonymously via their mobile device through an application called sli.do.

“Facebook was going to be successful whether I was there or not. Quora, on the other hand, would not have existed had I not started it.”

D’Angelo also spoke about leaving Facebook after working there for a few years to establish Quora, a knowledge sharing platform. He left because he knew that Facebook would be successful, whether he was there or not. “Quora, on the other hand, would not have existed if I had not started it.”

Even though the web had already grown tremendously, D’Angelo felt that a lot of the information people really wanted to know was still in people’s minds and not online. Starting Quora was a way for him to solve this problem.

D’Angelo pointed out that people have different motivations for sharing knowledge.

“Some people just like to be helpful, and some people want to build a reputation. Some people answer questions on Quora because they want to share their experience. Sharing knowledge is an impactful way to make the world better.”

In comparison to other question-and-answer sites, features that make Quora unique include their real-name policy and the ability to explore content personalized to their interests, rather than viewing results that are narrowed down by a specific keyword search. On the topic of building his business, D’Angelo spoke about how the team first built a prototype to get feedback about the product and later asked people they knew to ask and answer questions on Quora to build a user base. D’Angelo answered many questions himself as well, and over time a community grew on the platform. Quora has more than 200 million unique monthly visitors, and is valued at more than $1 billion dollars.

D’Angelo noted that several factors like good ideas, employees, market, and business dynamics are also necessary. As advice for the future internet entrepreneurs in the room, D’Angelo recommended taking on personal projects. He benefited from doing projects on his own for fun when he got into programming as a hobby in junior high school.

Lastly, on the future prospects for AI, D’Angelo said, “I’m relatively optimistic. Although it will become important to manage the risks associated with AI, I believe things will generally get better.” He said he hopes for a future where humans and AI will work together. This engaging and interactive event inspired and motivated the future internet entrepreneurs in attendance.

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