Groupon Co-Founders Get in on Qwiki

Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky, cofounders of the eminently popular deal-of-the-day (DOTD) website Groupon, have decided to expand their purview somewhat by investing a significant amount of money in internet startup Qwiki, which promises users an “information experience”.  The company has also received investments from industry leaders like Eduardo Saverin (co-founder of Facebook), Jawed Karim (co-founder of YouTube), and Pradeep Sindhu (co-founder of Juniper Networks).  The Groupon co-founders added their $1 million dollar investment to the $8 million already given by others in the Series A round of stock purchases (this in addition to the $1.5 million they had in seed money).  And if this venture turns out to be as big as people are speculating (like Google big), then everyone who gets in now could well show an astronomical return on investment down the road.

Keywell and Lefkofsky have become known as angel investors in the last year since they started Lightbank, a tech investment firm that has invested in over 20 startups since its inception in 2010.  So far they have limited their investments to Midwestern companies like Sprout Social, Wooster, and Watermelon Express, which are in or near their home base of Chicago.  But their investment in San Francisco-based Qwiki marks both a departure from their previous investments (although all are tech startups) and their geographic locale.  So what exactly are they investing in?

Qwiki, as a technology, has embraced the relatively novel idea (at least in the tech world) that less is more.  CEO Doug Imbruce cites information overload as the impetus for the formation of Qwiki (and apparently people with money agree on this point).  The platform seeks to provide information on a variety of topics without all the detritus that now clogs most search engines.  Just look at Google; if you type in a targeted search for, say, the Roman Coliseum, you end up with over 300,000 results.  Among that number are commercial websites, spam, and listings that have little or nothing to do with what you’re actually looking for.

The idea behind Qwiki, and their plan to streamline information, is both simple and direct, resulting in a search engine that is more like a set of encyclopedias than the type of search engine we have become accustomed to (where anyone with money or an understanding of keywords can worm their way into your search results).  The information will be compiled by computers, not people, so there will be no bias in the deliverables.  And it’s a slideshow of information rather than a listing.

Here’s how it works: you start by typing in a query (they’re still in alpha, but the sample they have available is the International Space Station).  You are then directed to a video that covers basic information pertaining to your topic.  From there, you are given a number of options for additional videos covering more in-depth aspects of your subject (in the case of the space station, you can select assembly, electrical systems, and scientific research on the ISS, along with related topics like the Shuttle-MIR Program, amongst a host of other options).  In short, it allows you to strategically guide your own searching experience, making it far more desirable than your average Google search, and a potential whale for anyone wise enough to invest.

Sarah Danielson writes for Moms Who Think where you can find easy recipes, informative parenting articles, diet and nutrition advice, and much more.