First iSchool spinout garners $2.4M in startup funding

If you’ve ever read through the frequently asked questions section of an app or website and wondered why the company thought those were the most frequently asked questions, you’re not alone. Qazzow, a startup recently spun out of research from the University of Washington Information School, has figured out a way to make the FAQs actually the questions customers ask most frequently.

Qazzow co-founder and CEO Jake Wobbrock, who is also a professor in the UW’s Information School, said most sites and apps direct their customers to what he calls “Help Islands,” locations on the site that are separated from the product or process the customer was using.

Qazzow, though, does the opposite. The service is inserted into an existing e-commerce or web app platform (available currently for iOS apps and soon for Android) where it logs questions customers ask about a product. The first time a person asks a question, the company has to answer it. After that, the question is logged and the more people who click on it to see the answer, the higher up it’s displayed on a FAQ list.

“It’s crowdsourced contextual help,” Wobbrock said.

It also keeps customers on the product page they’re asking about, which makes a purchase significantly more likely.

Qazzow gives customers a 60-day free trial where the system logs questions and begins a testing phase where half of the site’s visitors are shown the Qazzow system and half are not. Results show how well the system converted visitors to purchasers.

After that, Qazzow charges a monthly fee for the service.

The company just received $2.4 million in a series A round led by WRF Capital and Voyager Capital. The UW’s startup investment organization, the W Fund, as well as Summit Capital and five angel investors including “super angel” Geoff Entress, also participated in the round.

It’s the first UW Information School spinout to raise venture capital funds, Wobbrock said. Recently, UW has been working to commercialize more of the research done at the school. While Qazzow began as UW PhD student Parmit Chilana’s dissertation more than four years ago, commercialization efforts only began in September 2012.

Wobbrock said the company would be using the VC funds to bring in some more tech talent, increasing its team from the five members, including the two co-founders, who are there now.

Story by Emily Parkhurst, Staff Writer, Puget Sound Business Journal