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Founded 1995; 22 years ago (1995)
(as Homebase)
1998; 19 years ago (1998)
(as LookSmart)
Founder Reader's Digest
Headquarters San Francisco, California, United States
Website Official web site

LookSmart is an American, publicly traded, online advertising company founded in 1995. Based in San Francisco it is one of the five founding members of the IAB Click Measurement Panel.


LookSmart was founded in Melbourne, Australia in late 1995, under the name Homebase, and was majority-owned by Reader's Digest. After leadership and strategy changes at Reader's Digest, the company was bought back [clarification needed] by its founders Evan Thornley and Tracy Ellery, along with Martin Hosking. Venture capital funding from Australian and US sources was obtained in 1997 and 1998, and the company relocated its headquarters to San Francisco. Looksmart signed a deal with Microsoft in 1998, to provide directory and listing services. This provided a significant revenue stream that ended when Microsoft failed to renew its contract.[1][2][3]

LookSmart went public in August 1999, as part of the widespread technology boom in Silicon Valley. Their stock debuted at US$12 per share, and reached a high in excess of US$70 in early 2000. During the dot-com bubble of 2000, LookSmart lost a significant number of customers, leading to reduced expenditures and lay off a large number of staff in early 2001. Founders Evan Thornley and Tracey Ellery began selling their stock after the IPO, but suspended their stock sale program in 2000 when the stock price went below the IPO price of US$12 and resumed in 2004. LookSmart acquired the volunteer-built directory Zeal in October 2000 but then closed it in 2006.

After cost reductions in early 2001, the company obtained a contract with Microsoft, who again became their major source of revenue and in 2002 the company began to show a profit. In mid-2002 Thornley resigned as Chief Executive Officer and Peter Tomassi, the company's Chief Product Officer left the company to accept a fellowship at Columbia University. Three members of the Board of Directors also resigned in 2002 and were later replaced. LookSmart changed its "submit a site" directory system to pay-per-click. This led to a class-action lawsuit, which was settled in September 2003 with LookSmart offering free clicks to businesses whose websites had been listed under the previous system. Actions by U.S. state and federal governments required Looksmart and other search engines to stop accepting text advertisements from internet gambling companies.

In late 2003, Microsoft failed to renew its contract with LookSmart, leading to losses, large-scale cutbacks occurred, and the closure of all non-US operations. A company called Furl was purchased by LookSmart in September 2004.[4] Thornley resigned as company Chairman in May 2004 and was replaced by Teresa Dial, a former CEO of Wells Fargo.

An American, David Hills, was appointed CEO in October 2004. Hills brought in several new executives and attempted to diversify LookSmart's revenue streams. In May 2005 Evan Thornley and Tracey Ellery announced that they would not stand for re-election to the Board of Directors at the conclusion of their terms in June 2005. In June 2007, John Simonelli, the chief financial officer, resigned. In July 2007, Hills resigned as CEO and LookSmart sold its Grub search crawler to Wikia, Inc.[5] for $50,000. Later that year Looksmart leased a portion of its building to MySpace.[6]

In January 2013, LookSmart appointed Michael Onghai as CEO. The new board members are Christian Chan, Michael Onghai, Paul Pelosi Jr, and Thorsten Weigl. In August 2013, the company entered to acquire the key assets of Syncapse Corp.[7]

Products and services[edit]

LookSmart provides search, pay-per-click and contextual advertising services. LookSmart also licenses and manages 'white label' search ad networks.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Microsoft drops LookSmart search tool - CNET News". News.cnet.com. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  2. ^ "Microsoft dumps LookSmart - Business". www.theage.com.au. 2003-10-08. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  3. ^ "LookSmart's Microsoft deal looks rocky". ZDNet. 2003-08-18. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  4. ^ "Looksmart Acquires Furl.net - Search Engine Watch (#SEW)". Search Engine Watch. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  5. ^ LookSmart SEC filing, 2007
  6. ^ "Form 10-K". Sec.gov. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  7. ^ "LookSmart acquires Syncapse assets". Yahoo Finance. Retrieved 2014-03-07. 

External links[edit]