UW spin out AnswerDash creates technology to embed interactive Q&As onto websites.
What: AnswerDash, a Seattle company with a question-and-answer technology that can be embedded within websites.
Who: Co-founder Jake Wobbrock and CEO Bill Colleran
University roots: AnswerDash was born in the University of Washington Information School, and the 13-employee company is still housed at the UW. The idea for Answer Dash stemmed from a dissertation by Ph.D. student Parmit Chilana and was co-founded by Chilana, Wobbrock and Andrew Ko.
No middle man: Many people with questions about a website will simply “muddle through” and try to find an answer through trial and error, Wobbrock said. Some resort to outside search engines when they cannot find the answers.
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Good question: “We thought, couldn’t you just let people get answers right where they are?” Wobbrock said. Then people can click on whatever part of the site they want to know more about.
The answer: AnswerDash’s system allows companies to embed questions and answers into website pages. The technology appears on websites and in mobile apps as a small “Q&A” tab on the side of a page. The tab opens up to show commonly asked questions from previous customers and company employees, and answers to them.
There’s more: Site users can also use a small tool from the tab to click on any component of the website for more information. On a furniture site, for example, a user could click on a bookcase description and see questions and answers about the product.
Smart machines: AnswerDash’s technology is a natural language processing engine driven by a machine-learning algorithm. That means it can look at content, figure out what it’s about, and find the correct questions to associate.
Fast funding: The company, founded in 2012, has raised more than $5 million, including a $2.9 million round led by Voyager Capital last week. The company plans to use the funds to hire sales and marketing staff and continue updating the product, Colleran said.
Clicks for cash: AnswerDash started by charging websites a flat monthly fee, changed to getting paid by the number of times website customers click on the “Q&A” tab. Its customers include PetHub, PipelineDeals and TireHub.
— Rachel Lerman