Ji Xiaohua, well-known as Jishisan, an alias pronounced as G13 in Chinese, is like a pop star among Chinese young intellects.

11 years into Biology study, 3 years popular science writing and 3 years running an NGO for popular science, G13 recently started an internet business, Guokr.com. He said, “Guokr isn’t just an internet company. We take the internet as its main board. New businesses may come out later on. Guokr.com is meant to be social but more a medium.”

G13 started freelance writing as a Ph.D student. Right after graduation he gathered writers he knew and founded Squirrel Group, an NGO offering writings on popular science through blogs.

In 2010, with one million USD funding, G13 restructured his NGO company into Guokr Interactive Media, which would publish books, organize themed events and run an internet service, Guokr.com.

“This is a social network with media characteristics, a model you don’t often see. We are good at generating content, so we’d focus on content in the first place. Guokr.com is more a medium, and new features and products will come along later”, G13 introduced Guokr.com.

“Our strategy is to attract people who are interested in science and technologies and to have them build up social connections here. What we’ve been doing, from Squirrel Group to Guokr.com, is trying to effectively deliver professional information, in a cross-platform manner.” What Squirrel Group has been doing is cross-platform communication, by delivering through writings. G13 believes, “Running an internet business is all the same. It’s a big issue to have information online is effectively delivered. And that’s what we are working on.”

On Guokr.com users are supposed to follow others, consume content displayed in their timeline, interact with others in groups and use the Q&A feature; It’s not hard to imagine User Generated Content (UGC) model cannot work here. Its theme is popular science and most of the content is curated or created by Guokr editors.

  • Guokr.com was launched on November 14, 2010;
  • approaching 140 thousand user accounts;
  • 700-800 thousand daily pageviews;
  • 20% of the traffic is from Sina Weibo(weibo.com), a well established microblogging service in China;
  • 10 developers, many of who used to work for tudou.com the video site, and 20 editors, all of who are professionals on popular science.

Become More Social by Revolutionizing Q&A and Group Features

Quora mechanism cannot be more right for a knowledge-based social network like Guokr.com. G13 said they studied Quora last year and will launch a new Q&A system later. At the same time, they are innovating Group function and will launch a new one by July.

The Business Model

“We offer a channel to help brands deliver messages and we are making money from that.” G13 said.

A user base of 140 thousand isn’t impressive at all, let alone in China. But G13 doesn’t worry about the number and is confident with Guokr’s business value.

G13 indicated that companies, such as IBM and P&G, have invested tons of money on R&D, but can not well deliver scientific information, while Guokr.com can offer related innovative services and have target audience who are sensitive to science-related information.”We have something to cooperate on. So we don’t worry about business model.” Guokr has been doing online or offline events for many brands.

“Users here are sensitive to science, well educated and young that are of business value. What are talked about on Guokr.com are fit for sci-tech environment. Although user base we have is not very big, it is big when it comes to sci-tech sector. We have already had partnership with brands”, He adds.

Popular Science, the Niche Market?

“So far it’s not easy for us to have more users. However, we are confident with the business model, for there is a big room for sci-tech brands to explore, much bigger than that for literature and art.”

The good news is that Guokr.com is making money from those brands and publishing books. “The agent that invested $1 million is now in talks with us and might invest more”, G13 disclosed.

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com

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