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Google secretly acquires Q&A startup Superpod

Google LLC usually publicizes its acquisitions, but there are exceptions.

The search giant has secretly bought a startup called Superpod Inc. that developed a crowdsourced question-and-answer app in the same vein as Quora. Axios broke the news this morning, citing an unnamed source, and a Google spokesperson confirmed the deal.

The tipster told the publication that the search giant paid less than “less than $60 million” for Superpod. Even if the actual deal size was only a fraction of that figure, it still represents an impressive exit for the Palo Alto, California-based startup. Superpod launched its app into private beta only about a year ago and didn’t attract much in the way of public attention during its brief run.

The startup shut down the service in September, which is presumably when the acquisition was signed. Superpod co-founders Sophia Yang and William Li hinted at the deal in a note still up on the startup’s website.

“It’s been an amazing adventure building this community with you all, and we are at a bittersweet crossroads today,” Yang and Li wrote. “We are sad to announce that we will be closing Superpod today as part of a transition into a larger project. We can’t share any details at this time, but we’re trekking onwards toward the same north star and are very excited about the future.”

The acquisition represents something of a reunion for the duo, both of whom worked at Google before starting Superpod. Yang, who was the startup’s chief executive, earlier held an unspecified role at the search giant’s X research group and also spent a brief stint as entrepreneur-in-residence at Social Capital.

Social Capital is listed as one of Superpod’s early investors on AngelList alongside Quora Inc. co-founder Charlie Cheever, Precursor Ventures, Graph Ventures and House Fund. It’s not clear how much capital the startup raised prior to the acquisition.

The most obvious area where Google could apply Superpod’s question-and-answer features is the voice assistant market. Inc., the company’s biggest rival there, recently launched a program to crowdsource Alexa answers from customers. It’s feasible that Google might launch a similar program to try to expand the range of questions that Google Assistant can handle.

Photo: Google

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