Meet FounderDating Discuss: a Q&A platform for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs

By Michael Carney , written on February 19, 2015

From The News Desk

Being a founder can be a lonely, often foreign experience. And thanks to the “always crushing it” culture that dominates many startup communities, it can be hard to get the answers and support needed to effectively run an early-stage company.

FounderDating, which over the last five years has grown into a sizable global community of entrepreneurs and advisors, is hoping to relieve a bit of this tension with its new FounderDating:Discuss platform. As co-founder and CEO Jessica Alter is fond of saying, FD:Discuss is a private Q&A and discussion forum that is like the “entrepreneurial love child of Quora and Reddit.”

The FD:Discuss product has been quietly live in beta for several months, and the early engagement is impressive. The thousands of early discussions created have seen a 95 percent response rate, with a minimum of four to five “quality responses,” in Alter’s words, typically seen within the first two hours. Founders have been using the platform for everything from tactical questions around “CRM systems,” “offshore contractors,” and “cloud servers” to more emotional or subjective questions about issues like co-founder dynamics, hiring/firing, and stress management.

“If you’re an entrepreneur struggling with something, no matter how big or small, significantly decreasing the time to figure it out by hours or weeks is insanely valuable,” Alter says.

With today’s official launch, FD:Discuss goes from a secret backroom in this virtual community hall to a prominent and very public forum. That transition brings with it the challenge of maintaining the quality of engagement and the welcoming nature of the community at scale.

One unique thing that FounderDating brings to the table is its focused community. While Quora, Reddit, and other platforms like even HackerNews may offer more diversity and scale, FD:Discuss, at least in theory, is comprised entirely of current and aspiring entrepreneurs, as opposed to rank and file employees or even non-tech industry participants. And while FounderDating has typically attracted younger and less experienced founders, the growth of the FD:Discuss platform could make the community attractive to more experienced entrepreneurs and investors.

The global reach of the FounderDating community also means that its members can look beyond their local geographic community for answers to important questions, while also gaining perspective on how things are done elsewhere in the world. This may be marginally beneficial for those founders in major startup hubs like Silicon Valley where experienced mentors are around every corner, but for those starting up elsewhere, access to this kind of feedback can be incredibly difficult to come by.

FD:Discuss is available to all registered FounderDating members (membership is free), and the platform is moderated by FounderDating staff and the user community for abuse and pitching, both of which are no-nos. Discussions are sorted chronologically, as well as by most popular, by topic, and by people you follow. Members can choose to follow and receive alerts on specific discussions and topics, like “growth hacking” and “manufacturing.”

“I’m impressed by not only how quickly questions are answered but also at the time and quality people will put into their responses,” says Federated Media founder John Battelle.

Given the potentially sensitive nature of the content on the FD:Discuss, FounderDating has made the choice to keep the identity of the original poster posing a question anonymous, while revealing the identity of all responders. The thinking, according to Alter, is that this will promote more authentic and high-value discussions, while still establishing the credibility of any answers.

FounderDating is not looking to monetize FD:Discuss directly, meaning, at least for the time being, the quality of engagement and the value delivered to the community can be held as the primary metrics by which the company measures success.

FD:Discuss is hardly the first ever Q&A product, nor is it the first aimed at the entrepreneurial community. Where Alter and her team have advantages is that they’re launching this platform with an existing community and culture already established. The early engagement data suggests this fact has helped the company avoid both the cold start problem associated with any platform of this type, but also the natural tendency for online communities and forums to devolve into hateful, low-value experiences. It remains early for FD:Discuss, but at least for the time being, the company appears to be succeeding in avoiding these common pitfalls.

No forum or support group will ever replace the value of on-the-job learning that comes with being a founder and just figuring out a way to get it done every day. But for the moments of loneliness at the top, and for those highly tactical decisions that benefit from prior experience, FD:Discuss could be an invaluable resource for founders. As many famous figures have said throughout history, the second you stop learning, you start dying.