Stack Overflow Funding: Chat Q&A Transcript

In case you missed all the excitement yesterday, Joel Spolsky sent out a tweet inviting his followers to join in what turned out to be Stack Overflow’s first-ever chat Q&A.

The Stack Overflow teams have been experimenting with chat to help coordinate their development efforts in real time. After a flurry of publicity from the NY Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Business Insider, and ReadWriteWeb, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to see how a chat room would work for Q&A.

We needed a fast, informal public gathering to answer questions about the financing deal just announced. Joel opened a chat room to the public and tweeted an open invitation to his followers. Within moments, the chat room filled to capacity. We upgraded the room to hold 100 users and waited for the joining messages to clear.

The chat room was busy and, at times, chaotic. But after filtering out all the noise, what remains is a lot of valuable information generated in a short period of time.

May 4, 2010 Stack Overflow Funding Q&A Joel I can take rapid-fire questions for about 20 minutes, then I have to go. Joel thanks to 37signals for the awesome chat software, campfire. Adoniran B. Joel, Why did you get funding? Joel Adoniran: this will give us enough buffer to hire people, build servers, buy neat stuff rapidly instead of growing slowly and cautiously Joel the sooner we can displace phpbb/vbulletin, the better Jonathan S. From the latest blog post, it would seem that nearly all of the VCs contacted were excited about getting onboard with StackExchange - is this the case, or did some of them expect nothing more than another Yahoo Answers-ish product from you? Joel jonathan - everyone who invested really understands why we're not yahoo answers. Brendan M. thats probably because you actually have solutions Richard L. What's the topic of focus? Jonathan S. Richard L. Burton III: The recent news regarding successful VC support. ~$6,000,000 raised. Joel experts-exchange appears to be privately owned by some rug merchants or something. it is mostly a sales organization now that knows how to get corporate renewals. @johnsheehan Joel, when are you going to play your next WwF move?? Or is your Assistant CEO going to take over that responsibility ;) Joel john, my wwf account broke, but i fixed it. start a new game with me. AND DON'T PLAY ZA Richard L. How do you envision making a profit/ Joel richard - the whole point of VC is to defer thinking about profit until a large number of people are getting value out of the site, after which it should be easy to find ways to monetize that benefit both sides... things like careers.stackoverflow.com Brent O. I didn't read too deeply, but I didn't catch a valuation - did you make that public? Just curious. Joel Brent nobody announces valuations Joel we're not announcing a valuation, but we were Very Pleased (TM) Ryan R. Joel, I take it from your recent tweet that the position here (http://stackoverflow.com/about/hiring) is "telecommute" only in the sense of "live near NYC but work from home some/most days" ? Joel Ryan - the jobs for which we are accepting applications are in New York, not telecommute... Joel We have telecommuters on Jeff's team, but those are hand-picked, "don't call us we'll call you" kind of situations Jax Joel, so what is the very next step with StackOverflow? Joel we have been profitable until now and have plenty of money in the bank, but VC gives us the opportunity to really stop even looking in the bank to make sure there's still money there Joel johnsheehan, the SO team in NYC is still in Fog Creek' Joel offices Joel but moving soon Damien @Joel. Sorry if you have answered this but when are these other sites going to open the approval process. Joel damien current EBS best guess is 2 weeks Richard L. Joel how's the infrastructure for the website look? How many servers and databases are powering this puppy onw? Joel richard, half a dozen servers IIRC @johnsheehan What's the size/makeup of the SO team going to be in the near future? Joel John, about 6 distributed, 6 in New York Richard L. For the web tier or does that include the database as well? Joel richard I think it's about 2 web, 2 db, 2 assorted, but I'm not up to date, they might have snuck more servers in while I wasn't looking Jonathan S. Joel, perhaps you should have been recording a podcast during this chat - certainly there's sufficient material to keep you speaking, and Jeff laughing at your joke for an hour ;) Damien @Joel. Cheers also, Sorry to beat a dead horse, is the Podcast done? Was one of my favorite Podcasts. Not overproduced, just simple but interesting. Joel still working on plans for revitalizing the podcast... Richard L. Joel, do you llow visitors at Frog? Joel we have open houses fairly often, but in general, not really, no Andrew S. Joel, are the Stack Overflow non-dev positions going to be NYC only? Joel andrew correct Ben D. Any plans to open an Austin,TX office? Joel ben nope sorry Jonathan S. Joel, how's the puppy? :) Joel Taco is fine... picture on my homepage jonsmock What's the biggest win you've seen so far (besides maybe money) from bringing on the VCs? Any advice you couldn't have lived without? Joel jonsmock: it was really Brad of Union Square who pushed us to give up on stackexchange revenue in exchange for getting really big @darkhelmetlive Joel: What does this mean for private use sites? If company X wants a private, internal only QA site, is that possible? Joel darkhelmetlive for private, internal sites (not on the public internet) you can license the stackoverflow code from stackoverflow and purchase a support contract from fog creek software. It's expensive, and appropriate only for large enterprise/corporate installs jonsmock Was the nomination system for new sites your and Jeff's brainchild or did that also come out of the VC meetings? Joel jonsmock the process for new stackexchange sites was inspired by the way Usenet newsgroups were opened in the 1980s @johnsheehan darkhelmetlive: http://blog.stackexchange.com/post/5184749… Edosoft @Joel, any plans for translated/localized SE sites? Joel edosoft yes Tom Going back to your (old) Ben & Jerrys vs Amazon comparison - you seem to melding them, being liberal with cash but conservative with what sites to open. Agree? Disagree? Hate the comparison you made so long ago? Joel tom, i think that Fog Creek is a Ben & Jerry's company... StackOverflow is an Amazon company. jonsmock Edosoft: check out one of the early podcasts for a humorous exchange between Joel and Jeff, because they had different opinions on localized Stackoverflow (not sure if it's still the same way for SE now) Tomalak I volunteer for translating :-) Joel thanks! Joel one of the first programmers we hire is going to be in charge of a system for localization like facebook's Joel so that the community can localize to whatever languages they want Damien @Joel. Isn't there a worry that a lot of communities won't want to move to your platform if they lack ownership of it? Also have you considered the risk that for the more casual communities the lack of a true ability to chat in random, pointless, topics w Joel damien, I don't really expect communities to move. We're making new sites. Andrew S. Thanks Joel for the info and keeping in touch w/ the community, the openness is very cool richardjfoster Joel, you mention on the StackExchange blog post dated 13 April that you "hope to start the new process of proposing sites within four weeks". Are any specific subject areas bubbling up as frequently requested? Robert C. richardjfoster: Top proposed sites: http://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/site-proposal richardjfoster @Robert C. Thanks @NoobTech -. Has anyone thought about some sort of stack exchange forest? A set of stack exchange sites that can talk to each other? Robert C. @NoobTech: We've been calling it the Stack Exchange Network and, yes @NoobTech, there will be some level of communication between all sites in the network. richardjfoster Hmmm... interesting, and somewhat as I suspected. The SE "top proposed sites" all seem (at least to me) to target the existing, and occasionally somewhat geeky, trilogy users. Is that a good thing, or bad, I wonder. Robert C. richardjfoster: Sure, those first proposed sites ARE from the existing audience. But as new sites are created, the core audience will expand outwards very quickly... away from the programmer-centric beginnings. joelmartinez Joel, you've mentioned that the team is expanding ... what is the new push for? ie. what will the new team be developing? Joel joelmartinez - (1) building the new StackExchange 2.0 service (2) improving career services (3) ODATA (4) chat/IRC Richard L. Joel plan on exposing an API? Jonathan S. @Richard L. There is an API in the works already. gdalgas @Richard L - we are working on an API right now joelmartinez @Richard L. presumably, that's what ODATA is for ;-) Ryan R. Joel, I'm interested in giving the SE 2.0 model a go, but I'm a little concerned about the restrictions during the "open beta" phase (intentionally ugly, no custom domain) isn't that counterproductive? Robert C. @Ryan: That is done intentionally to stay focused on the design of the CONTENT, not the minutiae of selecting colors and such. People get caught up in those "bikeshed examples" really easy (before the important work is done). Ryan R. @Robert: Interesting. I'm still worried about the first impression effect ("man, this is ugly"), but I get the rationale of content focus. Robert C. @Ryan That's why the site is in beta... let people know it's not finished. jonsmock @Joel and team - how do you think Fogcreek's company culture and SE/SO's culture will differ? Be the same? gdalgas We have a new and improved Joel 2.0 - VC edition, I expect it to be awesome jonsmock None of the Fogcreek developers are distributed, are they? gdalgas no, but interfacing with them has been very painless - we share the same mission goals David Joel is not here right now, but we have two developers and I think Robert (Community manager) if anyone has questions for us Joel (I'm on the phone with an accountant now) Joel the series A funding is complete; there are a few more pieces of paper to be signed and a few more dollars coming in tomorrow from smaller investors in the first round Richard L. Joel are you going to write up your experience about how you obtained VC and share with those who never did it before? Joel Richard L: There are much better people writing about how to get VC than me. Venture Hacks is a great resource deadprogrammer @joel : did the VCs appreciate your and Jeff's twitter humor? Joel deadprogrammer: they own twitter, you know :) JasonPunyon @Joel: How much of the process is VCs choosing SO vs. SO choosing VCs? Joel jasonPunyon: in this case it was almost entirely SO choosing VCs. Except for a few VCs that were wildly appropriate who turned us down because we didn't match their investment profile, we probably could have gotten money from at least 6 or 12 different firms joepy Joel, question about funding, what are you going to do with $6million, your plan for SE2.0 don't sound like a $6million project, so do you have anything else planed? Joel joepy: we expect that's enough money to operate the company for 2 years no matter how much the traffic grows. jonsmock I still don't fully understand why Fogcreek didn't take on the funding. Was it a risk thing or an addition of experience thing? jonsmock By "addition of experience" I mean adding the VC collective knowledge and experience Joel jonsmock: fog creek sells developer tools, which is not a high growth market, so it's not attractive to VCs and not really appropriate jonsmock Sorry, Joel, I meant why didn't Fogcreek fund Stackoverflow jonsmock 6 million seems like a very feasible number for a company like Fogcreek to invest in something like SO Joel jonsmock, because now we have outside investors helping us. Rich powerful people with an interest in seeing us succeed. That's worth a sliver of the company. deadprogrammer @Joel what was professor pilot Greenspun's reaction? Joel deadprogrammer, i didn't ask him. We did speak to Greylock. The new guard at Greylock is very good. Richard L. Joel keep up the good work. I know it must be a good feeling to be successful in doing two different things. Joel thanks :) JasonPunyon @Joel: What makes up the investment profile of a company like SO? Joel JasonPunyon: for example, True Ventures turned us down because they usually only fund seed-stage, deadprogrammer @joel what is going to be the name of the company fishing boat? Joel deadprogrammer it's a 200' yacht Edosoft @Joel, how is the funding and SE2.0 plans influencing SO careers? Joel edosoft: it will give us money to hire people to make it even better mick @joel, I'm coming in a little late...are you revealing what the VCs got for their 6MM? Percentage wise? Joel mick, that info is not public. "We're Very Pleased With The Valuation" (TM) Guest @Joel - Do you feel this is a reversal of your position on VCs? I know you wrote an article about it, but taking a bunch of money now with hopes that in the 2 year window you'll figure out how to monetize seems contrary to what you've written in the past Joel Guest: absolutely. An earlier article I wrote (Amazon vs. Ben and Jerry's) is more appropriate -- Stack Overflow is a classic "Amazon" get big fast company. It's rare but this is one of them. Ivo @Joel do you think the VC money will let you add radically different features that you couldn't before, other than making SE 2.0 for free Joel ivo: it's (already) letting us do things faster. We have several projects already underway that we wouldn't have done if we didn't have extra money mick Richard L / Joel...if the other properties get big like Stack Overflow, you have to scale out at some point rather than scaling up with SQL Server. I assume sharding is a possibility, I just didn't know which would end up costing more from a productivity stand point. Joel mick, it's hard to imagine any single site getting BIGGER than Stack Overflow with 7.1 million uniques, and that one is on a server with PLENTY of headroom. Matt R. Joel: Any mobile plans? SO on iPhone is miserable Joel matt R: we have a public API in progress, we expect developers to come up with good iphone tools faster than we can @oscarryz Joel are you open to hire international candidates for Telecommute? Or only US residents? Joel oscarryz: the telecommuting thing is on a "don't call us, we'll call you" basis. (In other words, if someone from the Stack Overflow community comes to our attention as doing great work for Stack Overflow, we may contact them to look at making it a more formal relationship) Joel Other than that all jobs are in New York josh @Joel have you thought about delivering SE (or a minimized version) source code so we can use it in our own environments? Joel josh, there is an expensive "enterprise" version for large enterprises. Other than that, we are not planning to sell software any more. mick @Joel, One other VC question that you may have already answered, how long from when you first met the people that funded you to the actual funding (today or whenever)? Joel mick, we've known the people at Union Square for years, but the overall process was under 3 months Joel most of that was spent waiting for lawyers to do paperwork, mostly unwinding the complicated Fog Creek / Stack Overflow relationship Alex T. Joel: Any idea what the first new stack site might be, based on opinions of your current group or your investors? Joel alex i'm betting on statistics/data analysis. See meta.stackexchange.com, search for topic proposals and sort by votes. mick giving up control (or some control) would be hard though...did you have a problem with that? Joel mick, we didn't have to give up control. The founders have 2 board seats and the VC has one. Joel Thanks, everyone, for participating in today's chat! This was fun! I hope we can do more like this in the future. gdalgas time to get back to work - thanks for the chat guys mick Thanks! @anon thanks Joel turned off guest access

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