ChaCha (search engine)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
FoundedSeptember 1, 2006; 17 years ago (2006-09-01) in Carmel, Indiana
DefunctDecember 12, 2016 (2016-12-12)
Area served
Key people
Scott Jones (founder) (defunct)

ChaCha was an American human-guided search engine that provided free, real-time answers to any question, through its website, or by using one of the company's mobile apps.

The company, founded in 2006 by Scott A. Jones and Brad Bostic, was based in Carmel, Indiana, United States, part of the Indianapolis metropolitan area. Its name comes from the Mandarin Chinese word cha (Chinese: ; pinyin: chá; Wade–Giles: ch'a), which means "to search."[1]


An alpha version of ChaCha was launched on September 1, 2006. A beta version was introduced on November 6, 2006.[2] ChaCha said 20,000 guides had registered by year's end and that it had raised US$6 million in development funds, including support from Bezos Expeditions, a personal investment firm owned by Jeff Bezos, the entrepreneur behind[3]

By January 2008, ChaCha had 5,000 freelance guides with at least 500 working at any one time.[4] reported that ChaCha's first round of equity financing was $14 million plus a $2 million grant from 21st Century Technology Fund.[5]

ChaCha announced on March 17, 2009,[6] a new round of equity financing totaling US$12 million,[7] while also laying off 25 people and reducing the salaries of the 56 remaining employees by 10 percent.[8][9] The renewed investment brought total venture capital to an acknowledged $43 million,[10] though an independent estimate placed it at $58 million.[10] A month later, co-founder Brad Bostic stepped down as company president, saying ChaCha no longer needed him for day-to-day operations.[10][11] Bostic noted that the company had been struggling for profitability in the current global recession.[10]

In August 2011, ChaCha launched its text messaging-based service in the United Kingdom.[12] That same month the company reported having answered over 1.7 billion questions.[13]

On April 20, 2012, ChaCha shut down operations in the United Kingdom; the company stated the reason for ending UK operations was that "adoption rates for new price-competitive services are quite low in the UK."[14]

On November 23, 2016, ChaCha discontinued the guide program due to having insufficient funds available.[15]

On December 12, 2016, ChaCha shut down operations due to declining advertising revenue, which left it unable to service its debt.[16]


Desktop search[edit]

ChaCha was founded with the intention to offer human-guided search from within a web browser and for the search engine to learn from the results provided by their freelancers.[17] The system offered a chat on the left side of the page where users could chat with the guides and conclude their search.[17] The center of the page contained results that a guide could add or remove (later users could also add or remove these results). The right side of the page contained ads that were relevant to the search.[18]

Desktop search was phased out in April 2008, in favor of mobile products.[19]

Mobile search[edit]

Users were able to send an SMS message with their question to 242–242, where Guides would then answer it. Standard messaging fees could apply, but ChaCha never charged additional fees.

Voice search[edit]

ChaCha launched its beta version of a call-in search service on April 1, 2008, while discontinuing its less effective guided web search.[19] Users called a toll-free number (800-2ChaCha) to have a human answer their questions via SMS.

Mobile marketing[edit]

In July 2008, ChaCha launched its first mobile marketing campaign with Coca-Cola to promote its My Coke Rewards program to users interested in NASCAR racing.[20] Fox News reported that ChaCha planned by mid-2008 to charge users $5–10 per month once they exceeded 10 queries.[21] However, by May 2009, no additional fees had been implemented, nor had any plans been officially announced by a reliable source.[22]

In November 2008, ChaCha launched its SMS Advertising Platform at ad:tech New York City.[23][24]

In March 2009, ChaCha reported 30 million "impressions per month" and "3.6 million users" since January 2008.[25][26] An ESPN 2009 article stated that ChaCha was getting about 1,000,000 questions each day according to their tipsheets.[27] A former Yahoo executive opened a New York City office for ChaCha in hopes of increasing advertising.[28]

In April 2009, Rick Reilly spent some time working at ChaCha for an article in ESPN The Magazine.[27]


  1. ^ "How did your company get the name ChaCha?". 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-06-13. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
  2. ^ ChaCha press release Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine, BusinessWire, November 6, 2006.
  3. ^ "ChaCha secures $6 million in private funding from Jeff Bezos, Rod Canion, Jack Gill and others", ChaCha press release (January 8, 2007).
  4. ^ "Review: ChaCha's Text-Message Search Engine". Fox News. 17 January 2008. Archived from the original on 23 March 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2009.
  5. ^ Duryee, Tricia. "ChaCha Secures $12M in Financing, Reduces Staff",, March 18, 2009, quoting "peHUB"
  6. ^ "ChaCha Secures $12M in Equity Financing and Reduces Costs | ChaCha". 2009-03-17. Archived from the original on 2011-10-06. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  7. ^ "ChaCha Secures $12M in Financing, Reduces Staff"[permanent dead link] By Andrew Berg – March 18, 2009
  8. ^ Rao, Leena (March 17, 2009). "Nobody is Dancing At ChaCha. One Third Of Employees Get Pink Slips, Salary Cuts For The Rest". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2012-09-02.
  9. ^ "ChaCha Cuts Staff, Salaries To Make $12 Million In New Capital Last Longer" Washington Post March 18, 2009 quoting
  10. ^ a b c d Wauters, Robin (April 30, 2009). "ChaCha Co-Founder Brad Bostic Steps Down As President". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2012-09-02.
  11. ^ "ChaCha partner dancing to different drum: co-founder out as president, in as strategist". Indianapolis Business Journal. HighBeam Research. April 27, 2009. Archived from the original on May 27, 2014. Retrieved 2012-09-02.
  12. ^ "Learn, Teach, Earn with ChaCha's Human Guide Program". August 17, 2011. Retrieved 2012-09-02.
  13. ^ "Proven Leader in Work From Home Opportunities Launching in UK". Corporate Press Release. August 16, 2011. Archived from the original on October 23, 2011. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
  14. ^ "Q&A Site ChaCha Cancels UK Business After Poor User Take-Up". April 27, 2012.
  15. ^ bwigley (23 November 2016). "Apollo Guide Program Retirement". ChaCha. Retrieved 2 December 2016.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ "ChaCha, unable to find financial answers, shuts down operations". Indianapolis Business Journal. 12 December 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  17. ^ a b "One day searchers may quit Googling and start ChaCha-ing". USA Today. 2006-09-06. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  18. ^ JPG screenshot.
  19. ^ a b "ChaCha Ditches Guided Search Model. I Love To Hate This Startup". TechCrunch. March 31, 2008.
  20. ^ "ChaCha Cofounder Describes How the Company Is Making Money" Archived 2009-05-03 at the Wayback Machine, U.S. News & World Report, August 8, 2008
  21. ^ "Review: ChaCha's Text-Message Search Engine" Archived 2009-03-23 at the Wayback Machine Thursday, January 17, 2008 at quoting Candace Choi with AP
  22. ^ "ChaCha Content – Usage Limit". 2009-05-07. Archived from the original on 2008-11-03. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  23. ^ "Akamai, ChaCha Announce Parties at New York". 2008-10-22. Archived from the original on February 8, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  24. ^ "Podcast released: Our ad:tech 'Making Mobile Work' workshop". Archived from the original on 2009-09-10. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  25. ^ "ChaCha press release March 17, 2009". 2009-03-17. Archived from the original on 2011-10-06. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  26. ^ "ChaCha Secures $12M in Financing, Reduces Staff"[permanent dead link] By Andrew Berg in – March 18, 2009
  27. ^ a b "Reilly: ChaCha has all the answers – unless I'm on the other end". ESPN The Magazine. October 5, 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  28. ^ "ChaCha's CEO, Scott Jones, on layoffs, new funding and sales staff increases" Archived 2014-05-27 at the Wayback Machine March 18, 2009 audio by

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