A Q&A with Mancx CMO and co-founder Mattias Guilotte. The San Francisco and Stockholm–based company was founded in 2010 and closed a $3 million Seed funding round in mid-June. Investors include Almi Invest and Chalmers Innovation Seed Fund.
SUB: Please describe Mancx and the value proposition you offer to business owners.
Guilotte: Mancx is the only trusted community for business answers where business professionals can buy and sell high-quality business answers. Even though there is a vast amount of information that can be found on the Internet, most of all information is locked away in the brains of individuals or simply not publicly available. Mancx allows small and large businesses to tap into this knowledge and ensure their questions are reaching the right expert. By attaching a price tag to each question, both the reach and the quality of the answer goes up dramatically.
This means they can get answers for almost any business-related question they may have, and obtain information that would otherwise be out of their reach.
Mancx also offers business professionals and experts a new platform to monetize their knowledge, either by answering questions from other members or by using Mancx widgets to sell their answers directly from their own website or blog.
SUB: Who are you hoping to reach with Mancx?
Guilotte: Our main target group is business professionals who need factual and updated business answers in their daily work. Among our early members we find a lot of sales professionals, marketing research people and entrepreneurs. Some interesting questions have been posted from sourcing professionals and the VC community as well.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Guilotte: Well, everyone and no one. There are obviously a plentitude of places on the web where you can go and look for answers today, and there are a number of Q&A websites where you find general business advice and can get other peoples’ opinion. HighTable, Focus.com and Quora are services in this category. They are excellent for learning about new topics and discussing your business with likeminded people.
Even if I spend quite a lot of time on websites like these, and enjoy the conversations there, the most interesting Q&A websites for me to benchmark with are still LinkedIn Answers and JustAnswer. LinkedIn because they have an enormous amount of questions and answers, and we learn a lot from looking at what people are asking for there. Our favorite, however, is really JustAnswer because they have been true market makers in getting the consumers in the U.S. to start paying for answers on a broad scale, and built a great business around this. Their latest growth figures are just amazing and we know it’s thanks to hard work and customer focus rather than being hyped. Right now they are not focusing on business answers and are built around an expert model which kind of limits their reach, but that might change. But rather than having them as competitors we would love to get a person like Andy Kurtzig from JustAnswer on our board.
To sum it up, all Q&A websites compete for our target groups’ attention, but no one offers a similar value proposition or similar business model.
SUB: What differentiates Mancx from the competition?
Guilotte: Mancx is still the only place where business professionals can buy business answers directly from other business professionals. And why is the money important? Well, it turns out that business answers is exactly like almost all other markets—you get what you pay for. Free Q&A websites can certainly provide you with some of the business answers you need, but certainly not all. By adding money to the equation you vastly increase the information you can reach.
Just to be clear—Mancx doesn’t replace free exchange of knowledge and information. It complements it by adding incentives to the cases where information won’t be shared for free or where higher quality is necessary. Fun questions often get answered for free, while boring, difficult or time consuming questions are left unanswered. Just look at StackOverflow, Quora or LinkedIn Answers—they have hundreds of thousands of unanswered questions, if not millions. I humbly assume that many of the people behind these questions really want an answer.
So, by bringing a clear incentive into the game we can change that, and by changing the price tag on their questions people can decide for themselves if it would be nice to get an answer or if it is absolutely necessary to get an answer really quickly.
From the respondent’s perspective we also offer an obvious advantage, since we are the only open Q&A website which allows for business experts to sell their knowledge directly to business professionals, no matter where they are in the world. Any expert who is already answering questions on LinkedIn or Quora or similar websites should of course import their profile to Mancx and start getting paid for the time they spend answering questions.
There is also another important distinction between us and our industry peers. Compared to other Q&A websites, we don’t want you to spend as much of your precious time as possible on Mancx. Mancx is designed to be an efficient business tool in your daily work, not a source of entertainment. Ever since I saw the legendary Clay Shirky presentation about information overload, I have kept, “it’s not information overload, it’s filter failure”, close at heart in all our product discussions. We want to be part of the solution, not the problem here.
This also means we minimize spam and self-promotion by sending the questions on Mancx to the right persons directly instead of relying on a billboard model where it’s sheer luck if someone stumbles into your question.
Finally, we don’t really see Mancx as the necessary end-destination for all questions and answers, like many others seem to do. In 10 years’ time, questions will still be posted on a thousand different places, and the people with the answers will come from any of a number of the different social networks and communities on the globe. We want to facilitate the trade of knowledge between individuals on a global scale, and are happy to help our partners monetize their own Q&A services.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Guilotte: Well, Henrik (Henrik Dillman, CEO and co-founder) and I started discussing the idea of a global knowledge market back in 2009, but formally started the company in 2010. The first 12 months were kind of lean since we bootstrapped the business before we got any external funding.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Mancx? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Guilotte: There is actually a very distinct igniting spark for Mancx. A book called Accelerando by Charlie Stross. Back in 2008 I was working with international business development and at the same time I read Accelerando. The main character of the story, Manfred Macx, is kind of an information broker in the near future who lives in a hyper-connected world where information flows freely and Manfred himself gets by only using his reputation and by brokering ideas, patents and information. I’ve read a lot of sci-fi and I still found Accelerando deeply fascinating and inspiring. Got my brain into working overdrive on trying to understand why there wasn’t already any global knowledge market for business professionals around.
Finding detailed and updated information about competitors, prospects and customers is a constant hassle when you work with international sales, and as a traveling sales professional you spend so much money on travel, conferences and business intelligence, so it’s not like your time Googling is free to your employer. So, it was kind of obvious there was at least one target group who would be interested in a solution like this.
At the time, my best friend Henrik was building up a division of Pricewaterhouse Coopers and keeping himself busy doing a hundred acquisitions in just three years. When I brought this idea up to him he was instantly thrilled, constantly lacking enough information about the companies he analyzed and seeing a solution to late-night Google searching.
We started discussing the opportunity over buckets of beer, and once we understood why it hadn’t happened already we started planning Mancx.
It took us half a year to iron out the kinks but the company was launched in 2010. After speaking with Charlie Stross we proudly named the company after Manfre
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Guilotte: That’s easy: building a global solution that scales, spending almost no money. We have a product roadmap that stretches all the way to the singularity, but only so many resources. When we brought on board our CTO Jonas Bergström last year, we fully understood the technical complexity of building the global platform for trade with knowledge we envision. Every day is a constant priority battle between short term and long term goals.
SUB: You recently raised $3 million in Seed funding. How do you plan to use the funds?
Guilotte: We actually used our own money for seed money. This most recent funding of $1.65 million is led by Almi Invest and Chalmers Innovation Seed Fund, which brings the total money raised to $3 million. The money will be used enhance the product significantly, and to finalize our partner platform.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
Guilotte: Yes, we are already in discussion with some VCs about Series A.
SUB: What are your goals for Mancx over the next year or so?
Guilotte: Sign up more partners and keep our returning customers happy. Since I’m now living in San Francisco and we have our newest headquarters here, I really hope to see my friends in the entrepreneur community here in the Bay Area use Mancx in their daily work as well.
Mancx – www.mancx.com