Above, from left: Chris Sims and David Karandish, founders of Answers.com.
Q&A with David Karandish, founder and CEO of Answers.com
David Karandish earned computer science degree with honors from the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis in 2005. In 2006, he and longtime friend Chris Sims, also a computer science alumnus, started AnnounceMedia with the goal of better organizing the online consumer’s retail experience. AnnounceMedia blossomed into Answers.com, a plain-language search engine and information source used by more than one-third of all Internet users. Profitable since its first year, the company has grown into a global enterprise with offices in the technology hotbeds of Silicon Valley, New York and Beijing. He spoke at the Olin Cup Competition finale Jan. 30.
Q. You are co-founder and CEO of Answers.com, a question and answer website headquartered here in St. Louis. What’s been happening with the company recently?
Three years ago, my company acquired Answers.com, one of the top Q&A destinations on the web. Since then we’ve grown Answers.com as a website and as a platform. This week, we officially announced the creation of two distinct divisions at Answers Corp. to better reflect the company as it stands today: Answers.com and Answers Cloud Services.
Answers Cloud Services is the consolidation and integration of all Answers’ category-leading SaaS businesses: ForeSee, pioneer and provider of customer experience analytics; Webcollage, a cloud-based platform for managing and publishing rich product information; Easy2 Technologies, provider of online and mobile interactive merchandising content for manufacturers and retailers; and ResellerRatings, a trusted resource for shoppers looking for ratings and reviews of online merchants. Over the next year, we’ll be focusing a lot of effort on augmenting our integrated offerings to provide clients with an even more powerful platform to serve their needs, be it customer acquisition, conversion, brand engagement or customer experience.
At the same time, we’re going to keep investing in community and content for Answers.com, making the site a richer, more informative, trustworthy and stellar experience for the 170+ million monthly users who visit the site. It will also be interesting to explore how we can leverage the unique community engagement of the site to add value to our client offerings.
Stay tuned for truly exciting things to come.
Q. As a graduate of the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University, how did your education prepare you for your career?
I consider myself extremely fortunate for my educational experience at Wash U. The Computer Science & Engineering department helped me refine the process of problem solving - specifically the idea of taking a really hard problem and breaking it into smaller pieces.
The Entrepreneurship program helped me put the pieces together for how to write a business plan, raise capital and get off the ground.
Q. Any advice for current entrepreneurial WUSTL students?
You learn entrepreneurship by doing. The first seven businesses I tried - failed. The experience I received from trying and failing allowed me to learn the pros and cons of various business models, how to strike partnerships and how to market a product. We have a philosophy at Answers that any one person rarely knows the answer for how to make an experience great but through lots of experimentation you can course correct and get there.
Q. You run an internship program for students where they get to act as a “mini-CEO” at Answers.com for a summer. What do student interns do and how can interested students apply?
Our internship program continues to be a vital pipeline for budding talent in St. Louis. We took a breather from the “mini-CEO” format to give interns broader access to the business, from engineering to marketing to editing. Answers’ work groups are small and entrepreneurial by design, and student interns become an integral member of the team—getting their hands dirty while reaping recognition and rewards. We’ve had interns launch businesses within Answers that generate seven figures of revenue.
Anyone interested in our Summer 2014 internship should shoot their resume over to firstname.lastname@example.org.