There’s been no shortage of Q&A websites in the internet’s relatively short history, but most of them are pretty ineffective, believes Peter Yeargin, a senior manager for systems engineering at Cisco.
Some might help you get a quick answer to your inquiry, like Yahoo Answers or Ask.com, or help you find a home project expert, like Angie’s List, but it’s hard to test the validity of the information or source. And for the folks who spend lots of their spare time answering questions, there’s not a ton of incentive or reward for doing so. It’s a reality Yeargin realized one year when he came across a complicated question while doing his taxes (albeit at the last minute, like most of us).
“Of course it’s tax time, so I can’t find an appointment with a CPA, and I thought to myself, ‘It would be nice if there was somewhere I could go to get a few minutes with a specialist in this field,'” he said. “And I would pay a little bit of money to get this one-off question answered.”
So in March of this year, Yeargin began work on Sage, an on-demand advice platform with a mission to answer “all of Life’s Questions.”
The beta version of the site launched in July, after the founder — who is based now out of his home office in Wynnewood (alongside two young children) and still works for Cisco full-time — linked up with two overseas developers. The startup’s name indeed pulls from the adage of “sage advice,” and seeks to be a go-to source for quick, reliable information.
It differs from other popular Q&A sites in that it hosts a queue of “top experts” who earn a numerical reputation reflecting how quickly they answer, how accurate their answers are and how high their acceptance rate is for paid questions. That’s another distinction — experts can list their knowledge services for a fee.
So, if you’re like Yeargin and need a tax question answered, you could submit your inquiry to a CPA or or tax expert for a determined-by-the-expert fee. Users can ask their question to get public responses, like Yahoo Answers, or they can go directly to an expert. And while it does offer professional-related advice on matters like taxes or technology, you can also find folks ready to talk about art, relationships, healthcare or gardening.
“I thought there were a lot of good pieces to the Q&A world that existed,” Yeargin said. “But there was nowhere for public-based questions that give you a good answer, and a way for users to monetize it.”
Those who answer questions for a fee receive 70% of it, and the rest goes toward the site’s profit and a referral tree pool, which incentives users to bring others onto the platform by paying them to do so. It aims to ultimately bring more users on the platform, which would broaden the startup’s base of expertise.
Any user can create a profile that allows for fee-driven answers, but their validity takes shape the more they use the platform and prove they’re quick and reliable. Yeargin’s big goal with the beta site is learning more about why people ask the sort of questions they do.
While he has the two full-time developers working alongside him on the project, it was the Philly Startup Leaders community, which he joined a few years ago when he moved to the area, that convinced him to jump into the project. Though it’s early in the startup’s life and he’s working on it between the responsibilities of his regular job and family time, the founder said he could see an angel or pre-seed round in his future.
The rest of the year will be spent on growing the site’s user base: Yeargin said he’s hoping for 3,000 users by December.
“We will definitely be nailing that experience of the landing site, and creating excitement for the platform,” he said.-30-
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