New social site WhoQuest aims to help find the best person for the job

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How do you find the best person for the job, whether it’s a gig playing your holiday party or designing a new logo for your company? A Boston startup called WhoQuest thinks it can supply the answer: just ask your social network, and let people vote the replies up or down. The recently unveiled site feels a bit like a people-focused version of Quora, the question-answering site that has raised about $160 million in funding.

WhoQuest was born at Flagship VentureLabs, an internal incubator operated by Cambridge venture capital firm Flagship Ventures, and founder Ray Lian says he hopes the site can become an objective arbiter of that subject we’ve all been debating since our playground days: who’s the best?

“If you Google somebody today, you’ll get their LinkedIn profile, Twitter, Facebook, and About.me,” Lian says. “It’s all self-generated content. There’s very little reputation information out there. But if you Google a movie, restaurant, or vacation spot, you get all these kinds of reviews and ratings. We think reputation information about people is missing.” And that information can be useful, he says, for a casting director looking to find an actor, a journalist hunting for a knowledgable source, or a human resources director looking for the next great sales superstar.

For example, to help find an actor for the startup’s “explainer” video, Lian says WhoQuest posed a question to students at Emerson College: “Who should we hire to be in our first WhoQuest video?” True to his word, Lian hired the person who rose to the top of the list.

Right now, WhoQuest plugs into your Facebook account, so it pulls up names and photos of people you know on Facebook as suggested answers to its questions. Lian says they also plan to integrate with LinkedIn and Twitter.

Flagship VentureLabs partner Avak Kahvejian says that eventually, people may want to publish their WhoQuest credentials on other sites, or add them to a LinkedIn profile. “The idea is to build trust in these labels, because they’re unbiased, unlike an endorsement on LinkedIn from friends. You can’t game the system.”

WhoQuest has three employees, and some seed funding from Flagship. Its challenges now: persuading enough people to start posing questions, and serving up useful answers.

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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