Startup Spotlight: High school whiz kids create Q&A website Junglr

From left, Isaac Diamond, Zack Elliott and Robert Sun (Photo: Linda Ball, Mercer Island Reporter)

For most teenagers, balancing homework and a social life is plenty of work. But for three Mercer Island High Schoolers, that wasn’t enough.

Zack Elliott, Isaac Diamond, and Robert Sun have been working for over two years to develop the question-and-answer site Junglr.

“Our goals were not lofty,” said 18-year-old CEO Elliott, who interned at Microsoft last summer. “We wanted to create a clean, minimalistic website with a unique incentive system, and advance our knowledge of web development along the way.”

Today, Elliott and Sun officially finished the college application process. Sun has been accepted into Stanford. How will they celebrate? By diving right back into Junglr, of course.

We caught up with the developers for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight:

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Junglr is a question-answer website built upon a framework of social gamification that incentivizes users to stay active and receive prizes for activity.”

Inspiration hit us when: “When I first bought Starcraft 2. I found myself spending hours on the game to win achievements and unlock new avatars. I realized that the incentive system we were searching to implement on Junglr could be similar to the one integrated into Starcraft. Game mechanics could be used to spark user activity. This is a concept now known as gamification.

Over the next few months, we toiled away on the Junglr Market: a feature on the website where, for points gained through all sorts of activity, users could unlock avatar packs, badges, boosts, apply for modship status, and much more. In the future, we hope to feature deals, digital downloads, or gift cards on the Junglr Market.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Haven’t pursued yet.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our simplistic design and our gamfication system.The popular question-answer websites today (Stack Overflow and Quora) bombard their users with quality standards, category tagging, and all sorts of complex features meant to improve user experience.

At Junglr, we believe in a more “laissez-faire approach” with a mostly democratic moderation (like that on Wikipedia). Additionally, Junglr’s simple, clean design allows users to quickly bounce around the website asking and answering questions.

However, Junglr’s gamfication system is our truly defining feature. It’s flexibility is what makes it so powerful; it allows Junglr to easily adapt to the future without having to redesign critical features of the website.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “The smartest move we’ve made so far is split between introducing our gamification system and integrating as an application with Facebook. Both decisions have expanded our social presence immensely.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “The biggest mistake we’ve made so far was fully developing a chat room feature for tags that no one wanted. We (successfully) devised a solution to a problem that did not exist.”

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Definitely Jobs. Having Steve Jobs in our corner would allow us to quickly create apps for the iPhone and iPad, enabling us to expand into the mobile realm. Today, mobile presence is key to being a market leader; we spend more time on our phones than our computers!”

Our world domination strategy starts when: “Our co-founder, Isaac Diamond, gains over 10,000 karma on Reddit. At that point, Reddit will be forced to integrate with us and we will become the kings of the interwebs.

In reality, imagine how awesome it would be for the Junglr Market to offer Reddit Gold upgrades! For asking and answering questions, you would gain points, and have the option of exchanging them for months of Reddit Gold. This is the kind of integration that is synonymous with world domination.”

Rivals should fear us because: “We’re just three kids, and we know what our target audience (teenagers and young adults) likes and dislikes.”

We are truly unique because: “We started Junglr as freshmen and sophomores in high school, and have been plugging away on it in between unreasonable amounts of schoolwork, intimidating college apps, pesky standardized tests, and time-leeching extracurriculars. How do we find motivation? Truthfully, we just really love Junglr.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “AP tests and the college application process. Our development on Junglr slowed down a bit a few months ago because of how immense the college application process is. Developing Junglr while writing college essays, planning for college interviews, and maintaining high academic standards was difficult.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “This may seem obvious, but if you don’t really love what you are doing, don’t do it. If you don’t have this passion, when the time comes for you to really buckle down hard, to crank out features, and to fix pesky bugs, you’ll find yourself distracted and inventing up reasons not to work. In short, do what makes you smile.”

Startup Spotlight is an occasional look at a Pacific Northwest startup company. Have an interesting new venture you want spotlighted in GeekWire? Fill out this questionnaire in a fun and engaging style that shows off your startup’s culture. (Remember to upload photos). Past profiles can be found here.

Previously on GeekWire: Startup Spotlight: This upstart wants to bring the 3D viewing experience to 2D TVs

Reach Lily Katz at lily@geekwire.com or on Twitter @LilyKatz

  • http://twitter.com/Seattle_Startup Seattle Startup

    These kids are HOW OLD?

    • http://www.facebook.com/junglr007 Dendi Elliott

      Hi, I’m Zack, the Front-End Dev on Junglr, and am 18 years old. Isaac Diamond and Robert Sun, the two Back-End developers, are 16 and 17 respectively (I think, or somewhere in that ballpark).

      • Isaac Diamond

        I am 17, Robert is 17 as well.

  • Guest

    Congrats to Junglr on the launch! It’s truly inspirational to see the kind of talent we’re developing in the great Northwest.

  • Anon

    Sounds like a cool website, is the purpose “Junglr” to someday be a major competitor with the other big Q&A website like wikianswers, yahooanswer, chacha, etc, or for smaller simpler things for web development exploration, personal hobby, or college application buffs?

    • http://www.facebook.com/junglr007 Dendi Elliott

      It began as more of a personal hobby/web dev exploration project, but has morphed into more of an actual startup. As of now, we are striving to be a major competitor to some of these Q&A websites.