Quora Taps Thiel and Facebook Connections to Raise $50 Million

Photograph by Bloomberg

Charlie Cheever is co-founder of Quora, which just raised a $50 million round of financing.

Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder, was the lead investor in a $50 million round of financing for Quora, said Charlie Cheever, the company’s co-founder.

Thiel, an early investor in Facebook and Zynga, was joined by Benchmark Capital, Matrix Partners, Northbridge Venture Partners and Quora co-founder Adam D’Angelo in the round, Cheever said. The financing values the question-and-answer website at $400 million, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

Four of the five investors have ties to Facebook, which is planning the largest initial public offering for an Internet company, with a market value as high as $104.2 billion at the top of the proposed price range. Thiel’s involvement is seen as a vote of confidence in the 3-year-old company.

“He has a good eye for macro trends,” Cheever, 30, said in an interview. “It does feel good to have someone who has shown a pretty good track record and pretty good taste validating our directions.”

Quora, which has yet to generate revenue, still has more than half of the cash it raised in March 2010, D’Angelo wrote on his website yesterday. The company raised $11 million in that round of financing, Cheever said.

D’Angelo roomed with Mark Zuckerberg at Phillips Exeter Academy and was Facebook’s chief technical officer, while Cheever was a software engineering manager at the company from 2006 to 2009.

“The way that Silicon Valley works is that the best of these companies, like Facebook, end up being places where people learn how to build stuff,” said Matt Cohler, a Quora board member who manages Benchmark’s investments in the company. “I’ve known Adam and Charlie for several years. I worked with them fairly closely at Facebook.”

About 2.75 million people visited the Quora.com website in March, up from 516,000 a year earlier, according to research firm ComScore. Bigger rivals include Yahoo! Answers, ChaCha Search and WikiAnswers. Quora’s twist on the Q&A formula encourages industry experts to respond to questions posed by online users.

Quora’s expectations for increased growth and a favorable venture-capital environment made this an appropriate time to raise more money, Cheever said. Palo Alto, California-based Quora has 33 employees and plans to hire more this summer, Cheever said.

Quora is attracting employees and investors on its own merits, not just through its Facebook ties, Cheever said. Quora’s website is not closely tied to Facebook’s social network, he said.

“Obviously, there are connections between the companies,” Cheever said. “We want to build something that’s sustainable and stands on its own.”

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