Remember ChaCha.com? They created a lot of buzz in September of last year when they officially announced their human-powered search engine. I had blogged about it and after doing so, received a flood of inquiries from people who wanted to work for us, thinking we were ChaCha itself. Not only did I find this amusing, I had also voiced my opinion that their concept may have been useful before we had search engines that can retrieve results in nano seconds. But why now?
Well, they are still operating and picking up speed at that. They just received 6 million dollars in private finding from the likes of Jeff Bezos, Rod Canion, Jack Gill and others. While you may not recognize Rod Canion and Jack Gill, Jeff Bezos is certainly a recognizable name. He is the founder of Amazon.com. Canion is the founding CEO of Compaq Computer and Gill is a veteran venture capitalist and co-founder of Vanguard Ventures. Additional investors include Simon Equity Partners, an affiliate of the largest publicly traded retail real estate company in North America – Simon Property Group and Don Aquilano, managing director at Gazelle TechVentures, an Indianapolis-based venture capital firm.
So does ChaCha.com have a chance to compete in today’s search market which is obviously dominated by Google with Yahoo and MSN in 2nd and 3rd places? These new investors certainly seem think so.
“Right now is a very exciting time to enter the rapidly-growing search industry, and I believe ChaCha’s radically different approach to search through their innovative use of real people will continue to gain traction in the marketplace,” said Rod Canion, founding CEO of Compaq Computer. “I am pleased to be involved on the ground floor of such an exciting project.”
Along with computer scientist Michael McRobbie, Indiana University’s Provost and VP of Academic Affairs, investors Rod Canion and Jack Gill have been appointed to ChaCha’s board of directors. Joining CEO Scott A. Jones and President Brad Bostic, they possess extensive high-tech industry knowledge to guide ChaCha.com as it continues to expand its presence in the marketplace.
ChaCha claims to be the first search engine to offer two options for searching – one with a human guide who assists you in real-time via an instant-message chat and one with immediate search results that include instantaneous user-ranked results.
“At ChaCha, we often give you instant search results that are better than other search engines,” said CEO Scott A. Jones. “But if you’re still stuck and searching for something a little more difficult, we can connect you with a live human guide in real-time who will assist you with your search, for free.”
Who is this Scott Jones behind ChaCha anyway? Well actually Mr. Jones has been involved in quite a few successful ventures already. At the age of 25 years old, he invented a voicemail system that is now used by nearly all telephone companies around the globe after forming his first company, Boston Technology. In the mid-1990s, he created Escient, which he later transformed into Gracenote, one of the first companies to develop music recognition software that is now at the heart of several Internet music products such as Apple’s iPod and iTunes, Yahoo’s and AOL’s music services, and Sony’s VIAO computer line. If that is not enough accomplishments, Scott also founded IndyRobotics, LLC and in the process created Indiana’s Robotic Vehicle (IRV), one of the world’s premier self-driving vehicles. Leveraging that technology, several new products are in the works, including a robotic lawnmower.
With such a noteworthy list of accomplishments as well as the list of new investors that have teamed up behind the project, one would have to think that ChaCha has a fighting chance to succeed. Since launching the experimental Alpha version in September 2006, ChaCha has had more than 20,000 people sign up to be guides. In its first four months of operations, the search engine has already garnered user traffic at levels that exceed many first generation search engines. Although I doubt I’ll be using the service myself anytime soon, I welcome the competition against those who currently hold market share and wish them success in capturing their own portion of that market.