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LookSmart logo.png
  • 1995 (1995) (as Homebase)
  • October 1996 (as LookSmart)[1]
HeadquartersHenderson, Nevada, US[2]
Alexa rank184,689 (11 February 2019)[3]

LookSmart is a search advertising and technology company. It provides search, machine learning and chatbot technologies[4] as well as pay-per-click and contextual advertising services.

LookSmart also licenses and manages search ad networks as white-label products. It abides by the click measurement guidelines of the Interactive Advertising Bureau.[5]

LookSmart also owns several subsidiaries, including Clickable Inc., LookSmart AdCenter, Novatech.io, and ShopWiki.[6]

The current CEO of LookSmart is Michael Onghai.[7]


The name "LookSmart" is a double entendre, referring to both its selective, editorially compiled directory and as a compliment to users who "look smart".[8]


LookSmart was founded as Homebase in 1995 in Melbourne, Australia by husband and wife Evan Thornley and Tracy Ellery, executives of McKinsey & Company.[9]

Reader's Digest invested $5 million in the company for an 80% stake.[9]

On October 28, 1996, the company launched its LookSmart search engine.[10] At launch, the search engine listed more than 85,000 sites and had a "Java-enhanced" interface.[10] In June 1997, the search engine underwent a major redesign, dropping its original Java-based browsing system.[11]

After leadership changes at Reader's Digest, the company was sold back to the founders as well as Martin Hosking, with Reader's Digest providing a $1.5 million loan and retaining a 10% equity stake.[9] In May 1998, the company raised $2.3 million from Amwin and $6.0 million from Cox Media Group and Macquarie Group and was valued at $23.2 million.[9] In 1998, the company reached an agreement to provide directory and listing services for Microsoft. The deal provided the company with $30 million upfront and guaranteed payments of $5 million per year for 5 years.[9] Also in 1998, a search box was added to the LookSmart search engine along with People Search, Yellow pages, Discussions and shopping search.[12]

By 1999, the company had 500 employees and LookSmart was the twelfth most visited website worldwide with 10 million users, behind AltaVista.[9] In April 1999, the company raised $59.6 million based on a post-money valuation of $430 million.[9] In May 1999, LookSmart formed a strategic partnership with direct-response marketing company Guthy-Renker and acquired some of their assets from their e-commerce division for $3 million.[13][14] On August 20, 1999, during the dot-com bubble, the company became a public company via an initial public offering, raising $92.4 million based on a $1 billion valuation for the company.[9][15] By October 1999, the stock price would reach $30 per share, giving the company a market capitalization of $2.5 billion.[16] The founders' 15% stake was worth $375 million.[17]

In 2000, FindArticles, a website which provided access to articles previously published in magazines, journals, and other sources, was founded[18][19][20] as a partnership between LookSmart, which authored the search technology, and the Gale Group, which provided the articles for a fee.[21][22][23]

In March 2000, the stock price peaked at over $70 per share.[24] In September 2000, the company acquired Zeal for $20 million.[24] The founders only sold around 5% of their stock before the dot-com bubble collapsed.[25] As a result of the dot-com bubble bursting in late 2000, the company fired 172 employees or 31% of its staff in January 2001 to cut costs.[26] Also in January, LookSmart shut down Inside The Web and LookSmart Live! due to them being unrelated to their core business model.[14]

In 2002, BT LookSmart acquired UK Plus for an undisclosed amount.[27] In March 2002, the company acquired WiseNut for $9.25 million in stock.[28] On May 7, 2002, LookSmart expanded their strategic relationship with InfoSpace by having LookSmart's search listings appear on metasearch engines Excite and WebCrawler.[29] In July 2002, Thornley resigned as CEO but stayed on as chairman. Three of the seven members of the board of directors resigned. By then, the stock was trading at 16 cents per share.[30] On October 1, 2002, Jason Kellerman became the CEO of LookSmart, having previously served as COO of the company.[31]

The company announced in August 2003 that Microsoft, which accounted for 70% of the company's revenues, was testing its own search tools and LookSmart's stock dropped 20% in a day.[9][32] Also in August, William Lonergan became the new CFO of LookSmart.[33] On October 7, 2003, Microsoft announced that it would not renew its agreement with LookSmart and the company's stock price plunged 52% in a day.[34][35] In response to this, LookSmart announced that it was getting into the ad bidding engine business with a "bid for placement" program.[36]

In September 2003, the company settled a lawsuit filed in 2002 by customers after the company converted thousands of websites that originally had paid a onetime submission fee into a cost-per-click payment model.[9]

In 2003, LookSmart had a net income of $5.8 million and made $140.9 million in revenue.[37]

In January 2004, the company sold its Australian operations to Telstra's online division Sensis and most of LookSmart's 30 employees in Australia started working for Sensis.[17] Starting on January 15, 2004, LookSmart's search results were no longer shown on MSN Search.[36] In April 2004, LookSmart acquired Net Nanny from BioNet Systems, LLC for $5.3 million in stock and cash.[38] On July 1, 2004, Teresa Dial replaced Thornley as chairman of the company.[39] In September 2004, LookSmart acquired Furl.[40] In October 2004, David Hills was appointed CEO.[41]

On March 29, 2005, LookSmart launched five vertical search engines in an effort to provide "niche audiences with essential search results".[42] On March 28, 2006, LookSmart closed the Zeal directory.[43] On November 17, 2006, Gary Wetsel resigned from the company's Board of directors.[44]

In January 2007, ContentWatch Inc. acquired Net Nanny from LookSmart.[45] John Simonelli, the CFO and COO of LookSmart, resigned in June 2007.[46][47] In July 2007, the company sold Grub to Wikia[48] for $50,000.[49] On August 1, 2007, David Hills resigned as CEO of LookSmart and Edward West was appointed CEO the same day.[41][50]

Further developments in 2007 included Michael Grubb resigning as CTO of LookSmart on September 7, 2007,[51] LookSmart closing WiseNut in late-September,[52][53] the company delisting from the Australian Securities Exchange on October 1,[54] the company selling Zeal in October for $50,000,[49] the company selling FindArticles to CNET Networks in November for $20.5 million,[55][56] and William Bush being appointed CFO of LookSmart on December 20.[57]

In March 2009, the company sold Furl to Diigo.[58] On July 21, 2009, LookSmart fully released SmartRotation, a cost-per-action tool that served ad creative in an ad group based on conversion data from a web beacon.[59] In December 2009, Jean-Yves Dexmier became the CEO of LookSmart.[60] On December 31, 2009, Ask.com ended its contract with LookSmart for sponsored listings.[61]

In February 2013, Michael Onghai became the CEO of LookSmart.[62] On September 2, 2013, LookSmart's Canadian subsidiary, LookSmart Canada Ltd., acquired assets of Syncapse Corp. upon court approval for $3 million.[63] By July 16, 2015, the company had a market capitalization of around $3.6 million and its stock price was at $0.63 per share.[64]

In October 2015, the company transferred all of its assets to its subsidiary, LookSmart Group Inc. and spun off the ownership of LookSmart Group to its shareholders.[65] LookSmart, Ltd., the company's former entity, completed a merger with Maritime Technologies Corp., a subsidiary of Pyxis Tankers Inc., on October 28.[65]

On March 24, 2017, LookSmart Group Inc. completed a merger with its subsidiary, LookSmart Capital Inc. and announced that it would de-register its common stock and suspend its public reporting obligations.[66]

On April 3, 2017, LookSmart Group announced the launch of its new data center building located in Central Phoenix, Arizonaas a technology center, Silicon Canyon.[67] On April 13, 2017, LookSmart Group announced partnerships with the Clickable Institute of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Digital marketing and Richie Bello West to help veterans, minorities and immigrants at Silicon Canyon.[4]


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