Google Acquires Superpod, A Crowdsourced Question and Answer App, Presumably to Augment Google Assistant
Axios reported yesterday that Google quietly acquired Superpod which launched a crowdsourced question and answer app about a year ago. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Axios learned that:
Google paid less than $60 million to “acqui-hire” the founders and purchase some of Superpod’s assets, according to a source.
It appears the acquisition was made several months ago and likely over the summer based on a post by the founders on the company website. Superpod was founded by two former Googlers Sophia Yang (CEO) and William Li (CTO). Li’s LinkedIn profile currently lists him as a Senior Software Engineer at Google. AngelList indicates that Social Capital, Graph Ventures, Precursor Ventures, The House Fund, and Quora founder Charlie Cheever participated in a seed funding round in August 2016. No terms were disclosed. Yang and Li hinted at their future in a blog post to users earlier this year.
“It’s been an amazing adventure building this community with you all, and we are at a bittersweet crossroads today. We are sad to announce that we will be closing Superpod today as part of a transition into a larger project. We can’t share any details at this time, but we’re trekking onwards toward the same north star and are very excited about the future.”
Crowdsourcing Intelligence and Advice
Axios and others are speculating that Google’s intent is to use Superpod’s crowdsourced expert answers model to enhance Google Assistant. The top use case tried by smart speaker owners and voice assistant users on smartphones is asking general questions. Google continually scores well on this metric, but facts from the knowledge graph don’t always get the job done. Superpod positioned itself with the tagline, “Give and Receive Awesome Advice.” Users of Superpod could ask questions and often received an answer, or advice, in less than an hour according to company data.
Amazon has also discovered the value of this crowdsourcing knowledge and announced the Alexa Answers program in December 2018. That program enlists smart speaker users to answer questions that Alexa cannot. Superpod technology could play a similar role for Google Assistant and already has a model for collecting, sharing, answering, and ranking questions and answers. Maybe answers will be at the forefront of voice assistant advances in 2019.