Beepl PowerJuly 22, 2011
On Wednesday new Q&A start-up Beepl announced that it had raised seed capital. The press release was deliberately no more precise than ‘a six figure sum’ but Tech Crunch pegged it at $400K. Prague based VCs Credo put the money on the table for a service that says it aims to let ‘users seek answers and opinion from subject specialists, enthusiasts and their social graph.’
Beepl’s co-founder Steve O’Hear is a former Tech Crunch journalist and, as Virgin Information mentioned yesterday, he’s being rather coy, at least until he has a Beta to show the world.
Having long offered consultancy in parallel with writing about tech O’Hear was persuaded on board by an old friend and the desire to dig deep rather than skim widely for a change. “The downside of consulting,” he tells VI, “is that you don’t get to make the call on important decisions and even when you do, you’re very often not around to see them through.”
Q&A is a sector with a number of well established incumbents, but O’Hear still sees opportunities for new entrants.
“Q&A is very often interchangeable with social and this would also explain why Q&A sites are in vogue again,” he says. “You can’t stop people asking questions, there’s just this inherent human desire to question the world around us and to learn from each other.”
O’Hear sees the two sectors as operating in parallel and in many cases intersecting, so when he thinks Q&A he doesn’t just think Quora, E-E, Yahoo Answers, Mancx etc but also the big social streams like Facebook, Twitter and more recently Google+ as well as local knowledge sites like Foursquare.
So to take on those incumbents; “most of [the new entrants] are seeking to exploit one or more of the opportunities offered by the new web trends of social, realtime data, mobile and location,” he says.
“The problem, if you like [is] how to do this efficiently, at scale and in the right context for the type of knowledge being exchanged, using those new platforms and technologies.”
Beepl’s answer is ‘a bespoke semantic engine that employs natural language processing and machine learning to both understand the topics that questions relate to and users’ interests and expertise.’ That’s all rather Delphic to us but come the Beta we hope to hear what the Oracle has to say.
“As to whether journalists make good entrepreneurs,” says O’Hear, picking up on yesterday’s VI post, “I’m not sure you can generalise on these things but, as you noted, the job lends itself to picking up skills that are also required by a startup CEO. At heart, I’m a product guy too, you can’t really beat the creative process.”
Indeed you can’t. Journalists swim in a sea of ideas, so do tech companies, but the latter get to make them real. Sometimes. It’s a siren song and it seems to have seduced O’Hear. Beepl’s is certainly one we’ll be tuned in to.