Featured Startup Pitch: Social Q&A wants to change the live event Q&A paradigm by letting the audience choose questions

By Editor May 21, 2014

John Pytel, Social Q&ABy John Pytel, Social Q&A and Conferences i/o co-founder and CEO

Elevator Pitch: Social Q&A is an event organizer’s best friend, changing how audience question-and-answer is conducted in almost any environment. Accessible from any Internet-enabled device, Social Q&A allows participants to submit questions, which can then be up-voted by other audience members, giving the event host or moderator insight into which questions are most important to the entire group.

Product/Service Description

Everyone can remember a time when they were in some sort of Q&A setting and had a question they really wanted to ask the presenter, but never raised their hand because they were too nervous to speak in front of a crowd or admit they didn’t know something. Everyone can also relate to the frustration of having a Q&A session hijacked by that over-zealous person who rambles on-and-on about some personal story or off-topic question. In short, Social Q&A solves those problems.

Social Q&A is intended for meetings, events, and panel discussions, as well as corporate town halls and sales presentations. With Social Q&A, hand raising and microphone passing are a thing of the past. The emcee or moderator no longer needs to field off-topic or duplicate questions, since the most popular and highest-quality questions will rise to the top.

Social Q&A Image_3Founders’ Story

My co-founder, Dave Mulder, came up with the original idea for an app that would allow students to ask and up-vote questions during class from their smartphones. We initially launched the product for the education market, even winning Chicago’s Lean Startup Challenge in 2011, but along the way we discovered that it was actually a better fit in the events/meetings industry.

Marketing/Promotion Strategy

Social Q&A is a turnkey SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) product, so the majority of our marketing strategy revolves around driving traffic to our website. We use a combination of AdWords, social media ads, word-of-mouth and content marketing to drive traffic. One of the great things about Social Q&A is that whenever it’s used at an event there’s usually at least one person in the audience who ends up wanting to use it for their own meeting or event, so we have a button at the bottom of every app that makes it easy for attendees to get in touch with us.

Market Opportunity

Event management software is a $28 billion market. There are of course many product segments within that market, not all of which are directly related or competitors, but it gives you an idea of how large the event technology space is. It’s also growing at about two percent every year.

More specifically, Social Q&A falls into the Audience Response System (ARS) segment of the market—products that allow attendees to interact with presenters in real-time. ARS products primarily focus around the concept of polling, and there are very few that focus on the audience Q&A portion, so we are creating a bit of a new market in a sense. Turning Technologies, IML and Meridia are some of the larger players in the ARS space.

Social Q&A Image_1How We Differentiate From the Competition

When compared against other audience response tools, Social Q&A has four main differentiators:

-Traditional ARS are based around the concept of polling, where the presenter asks the audience a question. Social Q&A works by allowing attendees to submit questions to the presenter.

-A handful of audience response products offer a Q&A feature, but the functionality is very limited; typically, only the presenter can see the questions being submitted. Social Q&A allows attendees to not only submit questions but also to see the questions other people are asking, and vote up the questions they want answered. This provides the presenter insight into which questions are most important to the entire group, and results in a higher-quality and more valuable Q&A session for everyone.

-Many audience response systems are hardware-based, which requires you to rent a set of devices (clickers), pass them out to attendees, and then collect them afterwards. Social Q&A is web-based, meaning attendees can use any device with an Internet browser.

-Other ARS only allow for use during the live presentation (when everyone is in the same room). Social Q&A is web-based, which allows for 360 degrees of engagement (before, during, and after).

Business Model

Social Q&A is based on a monthly subscription model, with options ranging from $69 to $299/month based on the customer’s needs. We also offer customized pricing for larger scale events/conferences.

Current Needs  

We’re always looking for new strategic partners to help distribute the product—other event apps, meeting planners, etc. We’re not currently pursuing funding, though we would be open to it should we find the right partner. We’d also love feedback from users. Anyone interested in testing out Social Q&A for their event can sign up for a free trial here.

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Headquarters: Chicago

Website: www.socialqa.com

Founders: John Pytel, Dave Mulder, Scott Cohen

Investors: Bootstrapped

Year Founded: 2013

Twitter: @GetSocialQA

CrunchBase: crunchbase.com/company/social-q-a