22 Mar Echoes of Austin: #Chinatech – Connecting the World with Knowledge
Yuan Zhou is a serial entrepreneur and founder of Zhihu.com, a question and answer website launched in 2011 that today boasts 70 million users, who have posted 15 million questions and received 55 million answers on 250,000 topics. It’s the Chinese equivalent of Quora.
The inspiration for Zhihu.com came via a forum of geeks who in 2007 started Apple4us. They produced high-quality articles about Apple and its products when the iPhone launched they weren’t available in China, but people brought them into the country and geeks jailbroke them. This knowledge and expertise were in high demand.
People search for answers to everyday questions and today Zhihu.com is the the most active knowledge sharing platform in China. As its community grew, Zhou set out to monetise the knowledge as a commodity.
Last year Zhou launched Zhihu Live with daily topics hosted by experts who can earn vast sums from their knowledge sharing. Live sessions have been joined more than two million times, and speakers can earn up to $1500 an hour.
It’s not just specialist subjects such as law or engineering, there are lifestyle orientated sessions. Actor Mel Gibson hosted a Live session to and answered questions about Hacksaw Ridge.
The platform is a major new way to share knowledge and make money, but at its core, the mission is to connect the world’s knowledge.
5 minutes with Zhou…
Zhou’s opinion on geeks: “I think they are cool, I was a programmer with a mission to change the world. They [the geeks] all believe in science and possibilities and transferring ideas into reality. Geeks have faith in technology and China.”
Zhou believes a Q&A is more targeted. He says: “Knowledge can be broken down into small pieces, everyone can be an expert in certain areas so Zhihu releases the value of information.
When asked about international plans Zhou points to AI as the solution to scaling. “We can’t replicate the amount of knowledge the platform has. But with machine learning and machine translation, we can overcome the barrier of communications and language.
“Within a decade the amount of info we collected has expanded ten-fold. Humans may not be ready for such an amazing amount of information. In the future people will be more connected, more knowledge will be connected through cloud computing.
He concludes: “On Zhihu people and information are connected, this is the difference. Information has a relationship with consumers. Human to human interaction is a basic base for consumer products. Search is information that’s already produced. Q&A is information not already produced. AI can help guess what the next question is.”