The website did a Q&A with Wobbrock about his experiences with the startup, which grew from research at the iSchool. AnswerDash provides instant, contextual information for website visitors, putting answers to their likeliest questions alongside content without cluttering web pages.
Wobbrock was asked about what kinds of challenges are involved in starting a new company out of university research and about some of the keys to being an entrepreneur. When asked where his spark came from, he said:
“Research! Most people who have never seen behind the scenes in a top-tier research university probably aren’t aware of what really goes on there. But professors at such places, if they are worth their salt, are hard at work ‘making knowledge.’ The stuff that’s in the textbooks that every undergraduate reads had to come from somewhere. It came from years, even decades, of careful research, which includes asking provocative questions and having the skills to pursue answers that can, ideally, generalize. In our case, the question was, ‘How can we make user interfaces more understandable and easier to use?’ and the idea for embedding answers right into an interface emerged as a possible answer. From there, we saw that we could use a search-based approach, which made our solution new and flexible, and that Q&A was a good form for this information to take. It could grow over time, be rich with multimedia, and produce analytics of interest. More possibilities emerged. It was like we’d passed through a small cave entrance and wound up in a huge cavern of possibilities.”