Wednesday, December 31, 2008

ChaCha Nominated by TechCrunch as Best Mobile Startup

We learned recently that ChaCha has been nominated for a TechCrunch "Crunchie" award as Best Mobile Startup for 2008. We appreciate the nomination and would love your support! Please cast your vote for Best Mobile Startup at this link - http://crunchies2008.techcrunch.com/votes/

Sunday, December 14, 2008

eROI Study - Nothing Beats Texting

High school and college students greatly prefer texting over all other modes of communication including email according to a recent study by eROI. Given ChaCha's ability to reach this demographic with Rich SMS Advertising, I found this study particularly interesting! This further evidences what we are experiencing first-hand: Response rates to targeted text advertising are 5 - 10X better than any other form of mobile marketing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nielsen Reports - ChaCha Growth Explodes 300% to 28% Market Share

The title says it all - ChaCha is continuing to prove that the service is much more useful that first-generation algorithmic search engines on mobile. You can read the details here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

ChaCha & AT&T Forge Strategic Alliance

I wanted to share the news that AT&T announced a strategic alliance with ChaCha yesterday. The alliance will benefit both companies in many ways.

For ChaCha, the relationship means that AT&T is aligned with our 1-800-2ChaCha service and that they will be recommending our mobile advertising capabilities to AT&T advertisers. Aligning with the largest wireless carrier in the United States is an important strategic win for ChaCha and we expect the relationship to benefit our user base in many ways that we will be announcing on occassion over the coming months. It will also help further increase our rapidly growing base of businesses that are turning to ChaCha to drive superior results with their ad dollars.

AT&T will gain valuable brand alignment with ChaCha and exposure to the coveted 16 - 25 year old demographic. Now when you call 800-2ChaCha you will hear "Brought to you by AT&T" which is the first step in rolling out the public-facing elements of our partnership.

There will be more to come on this - please let me know what you think!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Reaching Consumers at Instant Gratification Moment Key to Mobile Commerce

On the go mobile users need quick relevant answers and solutions to their immediate needs. Due to the inherent limitations of web enabled mobile devices – small screens, slower connectivity and browser downloading capabilities – mobile marketers have to make the most of their limited interaction with mobile consumers. These on the go mobile users aren’t, in most cases, interested in surfing the web – they’ve got a specific need and turn to their web enabled mobile devices to find a quick answer. So, how do mobile marketers reach these consumers at their point of need?

There are numerous mobile search vendors in the marketplace today offering mobile users internet search capabilities. But, the problem is, typical mobile information services only provide algorithmic search results, which translates to links to “possible” answers. But now, mobile marketers have the opportunity to capitalize on the game changing technology that is revolutionizing mobile marketing – human assisted mobile answers. With mobile answers, consumers can quickly find specific answers to specific queries and mobile marketers can reach them at their point of need.

Say you’re visiting downtown Philadelphia and in dire need of a Mocha Venti Latte, only you have no idea where the nearest coffee house is…You call 411 or use mobile search and they locate 15 outlets in downtown Philly. Or, imagine this – you call or text your question on your mobile phone and a friendly “guide” not only tells you the exact location of the closest coffee house, but also provides you with a discount code to use at that coffee house. Want to know where and when a certain feature film is playing? Using mobile answers, a human guide provides the answer and at the same time asks you if you’d like to purchase tickets. Hmmm…you’ve heard a song on the radio, but you didn’t catch the song title…with mobile answers you can simply provide the guide with a few of the lyrics. Within minutes, the guide gives you the song title and artist and asks you if you’d like to purchase the CD or download an MP3 version.

This is mobile marketing at its finest — reaching consumers at their point of need in a targeted relevant way — versus the intrusiveness/shot gun approach of non-solicited advertising. Through the magic of mobile answers, mobile marketers are able to view behavioral patterns, intent to buy, promotion responsiveness, brand affinity and other key metrics. Tech savvy mobile users – especially the 18-24 year old crowd – have widely embraced mobile technology so it’s a natural fit for mobile marketers to harness the power of mobile answers to reach them in a method with which they are most comfortable! What’s more, today’s mobile devices are highly personal — so much so that they can be equated to a diary or to a personal “black book.” For marketers, this presents an extraordinary opportunity to carry on an intimate dialogue through highly targeted marketing to a massive group of consumers.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Walt Reviews Google's Answer to iPhone

A lot of people have been asking me what I think of T-Mobile's new phone with the Android operating system from Google. Since I have never used one, I am not much help... But thankfully
Walt Mossberg of the WSJ provided a good review of the new phone this week. Check it out here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Future of Directory Assistance Discussed at Pelorus

Yesterday I gave the keynote presentation at the Pelorus directory information services conference in Savannah, GA. This conference is focused on wire line and mobile directory assistance in the US but since my blog primarily focuses on mobile I am writing this from a mobile industry perspective (although anywhere you see "mobile" you could substitute with "telco" or other term that encapsulates both mobile and wire line and likely get an accurate read).

The US paid directory assistance market is being eroded by alternative information services - ranging from 800-Free411 to various mobile search options. Interestingly, although the average price per call for paid 411 is more than $1.70, most people who are DA users don't have any idea how much they are paying. Also, the demographic of those who use paid 411 skews older and the pool of people who continue turning to this service is diminishing. Those that use paid 411 do so on average less than once per month but at $1.70+ a pop the US spend still amounts to more than $5 billion (and shrinking).

So the big questions the attendees at Pelorus (largely executives from the large carriers - AT&T, Verizon, etc... - along with a multitude of vendors) are trying to answer are 1) how can I get more call volume on my paid 411 service and 2) what can I do to position well for the future and capture a new base users with an accompanying revenue stream?

Before I dive into my answers to these questions, it's first important to offer some context.

The US Market is Different from Europe and the UK

As you read this, you are probably saying to yourself "no kidding Captain Obvious" - but I have heard a few people make the claim that the markets are the same and therefore consumer adoption of new paid services in the US will follow a similar path to Europe and the UK. Time will tell but I personally believe this view is incorrect.

The US market for directory assistance (and mobile services in general) differs dramatically from Europe and the UK. In the US, we have a regulated directory assistance market. The carriers have an oligopoly on 411 in the US. Further, consumers in the US select a carrier who then dictates the handset and service contract options to that consumer. Although Google's Android mobile phone operating system is pushing to help ease carrier control over the services (by allowing consumers to easily download and use applications written for that operating system) the vast majority of handsets are locked down by carriers. From a service contract perspective, unlimited use for a fixed fee is what the carriers push in the US - counting on "breakage" to make their services profitable (if 100% of people used 100% of what their service plans allowed for the US carriers would lose loads of money).

In Europe and the UK, the landscape is much different. These are deregulated markets where consumers choose "unlocked" handsets and then independently select the carrier of their choice. They also download various applications and access services that lead to pay-per-use charges. Deregulation has had a huge impact on 411 services. A few years back, directory assistance (the number was 118) was deregulated in the UK which opened the market for paid directory assistance alternatives. A couple of companies mobilized to take advantage of this window of opportunity by launching their own numbers - 118 118 was launched with a clever marketing plan to become known as "the new directory assistance". Of course, the carrier (British Telecom on this case) was on the losing end of this deregulation move as paid call volumes shifted to 118 118. Today, 118 118 is well-known as a preferred provider of pay-per-use directory assistance and is attempting to expand into providing a broader base of information using call center rep's.

In summary, the US market for directory assistance differs dramatically from the UK and European markets. The differences have a major impact on the market opportunity for competitive mobile pay-per-use information services. Following is my quick attempt to provide some points in logical order that further illustrate this position:

1) Paid 411 in the US already captures the market of those who are willing to pay (and they actually have no idea how much they pay in most cases).

2) Paid 411 is an older demographic that uses 411 as a default because people are "creatures of habit".

3) The demographic that is served by paid 411 does not drive "viral" (geometric word-of-mouth) growth.

4) If Paid 411 in the US is enhanced with a broader "answers" capability, the volume of monthly calls from the existing base of paid 411 customers can be increased.

5) The smooth, paved "deregulation road" that was built for new directory assistance entrants in Europe and the UK does not exist in the US. Therefore, the market dynamics in the US are such that marketing a new pay-per-use number won't resemble what has occurred in the UK and Europe. Rather, it will grow slowly in response to massive marketing expenditures (think hundreds of millions of dollars) and will erode the existing base of people who formerly turned to paid 411 as those people move over to the alternative pay-per-use services.

6) Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, has clearly stated that Google will make more from mobile than desktop over time. Google provides voice, text, and WAP-based information services and certainly intend to be the leader in this space. Google will not be pay-per-use - they will be free and ad-supported. Therefore, the reality is that to truly win in the US marketplace (and ultimately global marketplace) the mobile information services provider will need to deliver a product experience that delivers a much more relevant answer in response to requests than Google and they must generate profits from the service through targeted ads and offers.

So my recommendation to carriers is to immediately enhance 411 services to include a broad range of "answers" and market that capability to their existing 411 base (because that is the market opportunity for the service - don't burn marketing dollars trying to reach the 18 - 30 year old demographic because they won't be receptive to a pay-per-use service). Further, embrace the offer-based answers market and aggressively position to become ubiquitous with a service that is more viral and sticky (and, as a result, growing faster) than any other mobile information service on the planet.

Of course, I made the point that ChaCha is the partner to enable these strategies!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Android vs. iPhone = Will open or controlled win?

Android, which was recently launched on a T-Mobile handset, is positioned as a completely open environment for developers who want to build mobile apps. The Android approach is positioned to follow the open source software movement and the advent of communities of developers that help increase the value of the system at a rate that can't be matched by a company operating in a traditional closed environment. Salesforce.com's AppXchange is a great example of a company that has built a vibrant community of developers who are committed to building cool new apps that ultimately make Salesforce.com much more useful to customers.

Conversely, Apple is following its traditional proprietary path in the name of creating the best and easiest user experience. Today, the iPhone clearly has the most traction - both in terms of actual mobile phones in the marketplace and the activity in their app marketplace. However, at least a handful of developers are shifting to Android as their apps have been rejected by Apple.

The question will be how popular Android-based phones will be with consumers compared to their hip iPhone rival. I definitely expect the Android - iPhone battle to be every bit as interesting as the early days of Microsoft - Apple war. It will take time to determine which horese is going to win this race - and the stakes are huge. The winner will reap huge rewards and both Apple and Google are worthy competitors.

What's my prediction? Open wins over proprietary - and it happens much more quickly in today's world than in the early days of PC's.

What's your prediction?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Do Yahoogle and Android Set the Stage for Anti-Competitive Practices?

Monopoly. When you read that word, what businesses come to mind? I am no mind-reader, but I suspect that if you are tuned into technology, Microsoft is the first name that popped into your head.

That may be changing soon. Google has some major initiatives - namely the debut of Android and the launch of its mega-ad deal with Yahoo - that have propelled it onto center-stage with the Justice Department.

Through the ad deal with Yahoo (known in some circles as "Yahoogle") Google will control 80% of the paid search advertising market. Wow! This would seem to make it awfully tough for competitive players to enter the market and for advertisers be assured a fair price on the ads they place.

Google asserts that the auction-style advertising process eliminates any concern over undue pricing control or manipulation. Others argue that Google sets the minimum bid price and the "black box" approach to serving their ads gives Google 100% control over what runs and when it runs - so their favorite advertisers would get top billing while others may be downgraded simply at Google's whim for any reason whatsoever.

On the Android front, Google is rolling out the first phone using the operating system with T-Mobile on the 23rd. The monopoly argument on this front is tough to make given that it is such a nascent play. However, with Google's might that will change quickly.

I see Google for what they are - a tremendously successful economic powerhouse the likes of which the world has never seen. The only frontier that is bigger than online search is mobile search so that is the place I watch Google most closely. Along with the level of power they continue to acquire will come more intensified scrutiny from the Justice Department. Although this threat is strong, I think the biggest threat to Google is going to come from nimble competitors who are thinking differently about how to deliver a mobile search experience that delights users. :-)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

CNN Story - People vs. Computers

Today, Jacque Wilson posted an article titled "Who gives better answers, people or computers? Ask ChaCha". Thanks for the coverage, Jacque! It is a nice piece and I wanted to comment on a few things in the article...

The title of the article, although catchy, does not correctly characterize what ChaCha does exactly (nor should it necessarily...). What do I mean? I mean we are actually allowing ChaCha's users to get the best possible computer intelligence by leveraging human intelligence. Our software actually learns from our more than 35,000 Guides which allows for a smarter and better experience. So with ChaCha you aren't choosing between humans OR computers - you are getting human intelligence AND computer intelligence perfectly coordinated to provide the answer you need, when you need it, without requiring you to jump through any hoops. With that said, a huge component of the ChaCha magic that keeps our average user coming back about one time every single day comes from our amazing base of knowledgeable Guides.

The interview for this article occurred more than a month ago - an eternity in ChaCha time - so some of the numbers Jacque cites are a bit dated. The release I posted yesterday conveys the momentum we have at ChaCha. One key fact, according to Nielsen Mobile, is that ChaCha is now the fastest growing mobile text search service - growing faster than WAP or text for Yahoo! and Google. 27 million mobile answers and more than a million unique users plus the top innovation award from Frost & Sullivan are the best proof that the ChaCha experience is what mobile users prefer.

The quote from an individual named DeLoach in the SEO space also deserves some feedback:

"With the rise of Internet-equipped mobile phones, specifically the iPhone, why would I go to ChaCha to search for me when I can just do it myself?" DeLoach asked.
Great question! It is one that I hear often. The reality is that much less than one percent of mobile phones in the US are iPhones. The fact is that more than 90% of the more than 250 million handsets in the US are not only not iPhones - They are not even smart phones at all. Further, among those who have smart phones - even iPhones - asking a question and getting an answer with the link to deeper resources supporting the answer is an experience that works much better when you are, say, driving a car or walking to a meeting.

So ChaCha works on virtually ALL PHONES - not just a tiny sliver of the phones that are used by the elite. And for those phones that are souped up - ChaCha makes the experience even better. Just try calling 1-800-2ChaCha while you are driving down the highway to find out what time Florida plays their football game this weekend. Then try a similar question with your mobile browser and you will see just how valuable the ability to ask a question and get the answer can be for you!

With all of that said, the market for mobile search is big and growing rapidly and will be so much more massive than online search that opportunities abound for companies with various solutions to succeed. No doubt the iPhone, Google, etc... have strong mobile business opportunities. We believe ChaCha complements all of them - and our numbers are what tell the real story about what people really want and love.

Thanks again for the coverage, Jacque!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nielsen Mobile Says ChaCha is the Fastest Growing in Mobile Search

ChaCha issued a press release today announcing that we won the top product innovation award from Frost & Sullivan and that we are the fastest growing mobile search company - growing faster than Google or Yahoo! - according to Nielsen Mobile.

Here is the release -

Media Contact:

Lisa Kennedy

(415) 618-8726

lkennedy@citigatecunningham.com

Award-Winning ChaCha is Fastest Growing

Mobile Search Service

The human-powered mobile answers service quickly captured

seven percent of the mobile text search market with a quarterly growth rate of more than 800 percent

INDIANAPOLIS – September 17, 2008 – Accepting the 2008 North American Frost & Sullivan Award for Product Innovation, ChaCha announced that it now has more than a million users and has answered more than 27 million queries since it launched its revolutionary mobile answers service in January. This, combined with its quarterly growth rate in Q2, makes ChaCha the fastest growing mobile search service, surpassing both Google and Yahoo in both WAP and text-based search growth rates (according to the latest data from Nielsen Mobile).

ChaCha increased its market share in the U.S. mobile search market to seven percent, tying for second place with Yahoo at the end of June 2008. ChaCha also exited the quarter with an 800 percent growth rate, compared to Yahoo’s 200 percent growth rate.

"Mobile search is growing at an incredible pace,” says Chris Quick, mobile media analyst with Nielsen Mobile. “Within the mobile SMS search category, ChaCha is the fastest growing service, increasingly competitive with other mobile search providers. We’re therefore keeping very close tabs on how ChaCha will affect the mobile market.”

“After reviewing numerous operators in the mobile search and advertising markets, we believe ChaCha offers the most compelling service for mobile users,” said Vikrant Gandhi, senior analyst for Frost & Sullivan. “The high level of interest demonstrated by the number of queries ChaCha answers on a monthly basis clearly indicates that mobile users are finding the service to be of real benefit. We’re delighted to honor ChaCha for their innovation in breaking the code in mobile search through their search methodologies and practices.”

“ChaCha is honored to be recognized by Frost & Sullivan as an innovative and unique service that demonstrates outstanding achievement and superior performance in leadership and technological innovation,” said ChaCha CEO, Scott A. Jones. “In the past eight months, we’ve cemented our position as a mobile search leader and now every 10 seconds a new user tries ChaCha. By offering a superior solution in an explosive market, we are attracting the best partners to leverage our unparalleled service for mutual benefit.”

Recently, ChaCha also launched its mobile marketing solution, ChaCha 1:1, and is partnering with premium brands including Coca Cola, Fifth Third Bank and McDonald’s to implement engaging, conversational and highly relevant mobile marketing campaigns.

ChaCha merges sophisticated search technology with the power of human intelligence by leveraging its growing base of over 35,000 Guides to answer customer queries 24/7 by simply texting a question to (242 242) or calling (1-800-224-2242) from virtually any mobile device. This radically simple solution has allowed ChaCha to achieve its industry-leading growth performance.

About ChaCha

ChaCha, a free mobile answers service, allows users to call 1-800-2ChaCha™ or text questions to ChaCha (242242™) on mobile phones and receive answers within minutes. ChaCha expert guides — trained and skilled individuals — use ChaCha's powerful internal patent-pending search tools to respond to any query. For more information about ChaCha’s newest features, go to www.chacha.com.

For more information about how to maximize the power of mobile answers to take your marketing campaigns to a new level on the mobile frontier, visit ChaCha’s 1:1 Mobile Marketing Solutions partner site at: http://partners.chacha.com/.

Created by serial entrepreneur Scott A. Jones (www.scottajones.com) and Brad Bostic (http://blog.bradbostic.com), ChaCha is funded by Bezos Expeditions, the personal investment firm of Jeff Bezos; Morton Meyerson, former President and Vice Chairman of EDS as well as Chairman and CEO of Perot Systems; Rod Canion, founding CEO of Compaq Computer; and Jack Gill, well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalist.

L.A. train engineer may have been text messaging before crash

Laws that ban text messaging while driving have been catching on and if theories about the worst train crash in fifteen years prove to be true expect the bans to spread like wildfire. Today, it was reported that at least one of the friends of the train engineer had received a text message from the engineer within a minute of the crash. This may help explain why he inexplicably blew through a red light and multiple warning signs to careen into a freight train killing at least 18 people.

The fact is that text messaging does have an addictive quality. It's so addictive that while driving I oftentimes can't resist the temptation to text.

I think this issue is going to drive a lot of mobile innovation leveraging voice as the input. The massive distraction with texting is when you are trying to key in your outbound message. If you could just speak your message, have it transcribed ACCURATELY and easily direct it to the appropriate contact, I think the issue is solved and text junkies can continue texting away.

The issue today is that transcription of voice to text remains sketchy at best. I think the folks at Vlingo are doing the best job by providing speaker-dependent transcription technology but the need for an app on your phone is a bit limiting.

In any event, make sure you don't crash your car because you are texting - and let me know what type of mobile innovation you think might be spawned by the bans that will likely lead to a texting withdraw syndrome that will, in-turn, create a lucrative counseling service for texting commuters who are in withdrawal.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Zynga Leverages Social Networking to Build Casual Gaming Growth Engine

At CTIA last week I had the opportunity to meet Scott Derringer of Zynga. It was great to hear about their company. Scott told me about their team and the fact that several of them worked on previous start-ups together - some more successful than others.

The concept behind Zynga is compelling yet simple - to add a social element to casual games. It sounds like they have the right recipe with staggering growth over their first year of operation.

I will be watching them closely and expect them to be a huge success. Once they offer a mobile set of games ChaCha will be first in line to collaborate with Zynga!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Blackberry Storm Internal Verizon Video

The Blackberry Storm will soon be introduced through Verizon stores and an internal training session was recorded. You can check it out here http://gizmodo.com/tag/blackberry-storm. The primary feature of this phone is its touch screen (yawn). As a Blackberry user, I have come to really like the track ball thingy - it makes it so easy to navigate around and it tends to select the thing I am trying to select. The touchscreens I have used, including LG Voyager and iPhone, have looked cool and functioned poorly. Perhaps I am missing something but I just don't get the touchscreen's true utility (except the cool "pinching" feature for zooming in on the iPhone - that is awesome!).

iPhone Sales Weak in Japan

In Japan, the iPhone's release was accompanied by predictions that the fancy new web-capable device would reach 5% market share quickly.

But Japan is one of the world’s largest and most demanding mobile phone markets. Perhaps even a bit too demanding for the iPhone. According to market-research firm MM Research Institute, Apple (AAPL) sold just 200,000 iPhones in Japan in the device’s first two months on the market.

And now demand is declining. So much so that analysts say sales are unlikely to top 500,000 units, let alone two million. The reason: The iPhone, even with its multi-touch screen and elegant design, pales a bit in comparison to the typical Japanese handset, which boasts not just a high-end color display, but a video camera, GPS and digital TV and electronic currency support as well. Said MM Research analyst Eimei Yokota, “The iPhone is a difficult phone to use for the Japanese market because there are so many features it doesn’t have.”

Saturday, September 13, 2008

United Stock Hammered by 2002 Google Bankruptcy Coverage

If you've ever wondered just how much control Google has over our economy, take a look at this...

The article about how United Airlines filed for bankruptcy in 2002 was revived when it showed up on a newspaper site’s “most viewed” section on Monday.

From there it was picked up by Google News and later seen by alarmed stockholders. The stock plunged from around $12 to just $3 a share before trading was halted.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Frost and Sullivan Selects ChaCha's Mobile Service as Best

I thought I'd share this big news from ChaCha. Frost & Sullivan independently evaluated all of the major SMS-based search products (although we are more "answers" than the others) and selected ChaCha as the best!

“ChaCha has clearly identified the missing pieces in mobile search and developed a unique solution to address the key requirements of mobile subscribers. ‘Trust us with your Search’- this seems to be the mantra at ChaCha. The company’s success is attributed to its keen understanding of the mobile subscribers’ requirements, and offering extremely simple – yet highly effective- solutions to meet the hitherto unmet market need.”

Saturday, June 7, 2008

David Pogue On ChaCha in the NY Times

On the front page of the Business section in the NY Times this week, DAVID POGUE reviewed notable cell phone services that can be accessed simply by making a phone call. ChaCha was one of those services and, luckily for us, was the only one to get a big image included with the story! Here is an excerpt from the story.

"ChaCha. Here’s another voice-activated service (800-2CHACHA) — but this time, you can ask any question at all. “What’s that German word that means, ‘pleasure from other people’s pain’?” Or “Who ran against Abraham Lincoln for president?” Or “What’s on the front page of today’s New York Times?” Or “How do you jump the battery in a Prius?” Or “Where’s the cheapest gas in southeast Connecticut right now?” Or “What’s the last flight to New York out of O’Hare Airport?” Just about anything, in fact, you could find on the Web.

After 30 seconds, you get a text message confirming that ChaCha is working on your question. A minute or two later, you get the answer, typed out in friendly English (“Thanks for asking!”), as though there were a real person on the other end.

...ChaCha does a tantalizingly good impersonation of a personal concierge who caters to your whims, and saves the day with amazing frequency. Best of all, there’s no fee, no software, no signup or registration; you can dial it right this instant."


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Great Day in Silicon Valley

Today, I presented in the Graduate Circle at Under the Radar in Mountain View, CA. Last year ChaCha was a presenting company that had not yet launched our mobile products. Now that we have launched our ChaCha mobile answers service and users love it, we are enjoying tremendous growth rates (100%+ per month). Since we have reached this stage of our development, Under the Radar selected ChaCha to present in the Graduate Circle ("GC"). The GC is intended to companies off that presented in the past and are now doing well.

There were a lot of great people at the conference so it was definitely worth the trip.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

ChaCha at the Indy 500


ChaCha was the official mobile answers service of the Indy 500 and quickly became a highlight of the event. Here is a picture with me, Susan Marshall (VP of Marketing), and Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon. As part of our Indy 500 partnership, the race winner became a ChaCha user and put a ChaCha "eGrip" on his phone.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Walt Discusses ChaCha in the WSJ and on CNBC

ChaCha was featured today in the Personal Technology section of the Wall Street Journal. In this video, Walt talks about our mobile answers service. How does 1-800-2ChaCha work for you? Post a comment to let me know!


Answers in the palm of your hand, with Walter Mossberg, Wall Street Journal and CNBC's Michelle Caruso Cabrera

http://www.cnbc.com/id/15840232?video=721603319

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Aunt Bee Would Like ChaCha

I had to share this recent article. Although ChaCha is much more than a modern-day Mayberry operator (we are precisely routing questions to the optimal guide and answer delivery is facilitated in a sophisticated, scalable manner) it is great to see these real-life experiences relayed by people who are objectively evaluating the value of mobile answers from ChaCha. This writer would have saved more than an hour finding a digital camera by starting with ChaCha... Let me know what you think of this writer's take...

The Free Lance-Star - Fredericksburg,VA,USA

ONE MIGHT expect ChaCha, the new cell phone search engine powered by actual flesh-and-blood human beings, to be as slow as a choo-choo chugging up a hill. ...

ONE MIGHT expect ChaCha, the new cell phone search engine powered by actual flesh-and-blood human beings, to be as slow as a choo-choo chugging up a hill.

It's essentially a cyber- version of the Mayberry telephone operator Andy and Barney used to call up whenever they wanted to know if the diner had a special on meatloaf.
(You can actually do that with ChaCha, by the way.)

Users call, text or e-mail a real, live human being with a question and he or she quickly and carefully researches it for you, delivering a snippet of personalized advice along with the single best Web site link to your mobile phone.

The service works on any cell phone, and it's surprisingly fast--usually delivering results in a few minutes. It's also uncannily on the nose in terms of personal advice.

My cynical editor suggested that ChaCha might be pulling a fast one on us, delivering what advertisers pay it to tell us.

So I put the service to a tough test.

I spent over an hour on the Web, trying to figure out what the best digital camera would be as a gift for my 7-year-old son's birthday.

Robbie's grandmother had asked me to do this. She then turned her nose up at a few possibilities I came up with. Finally, we agreed that one looked like a good choice.

I put ChaCha to a real test by texting "What's the best digital camera for kids?"

And I posed this question at 12:15 a.m., believing I wouldn't get an answer till the next morning.

A short time later, I had my answer.

And, like some kind of magic card trick, it was the same Fisher-Price camera Robbie's grandmother and I liked after more than an hour's painstaking research.

Ask ChaCha where the cheapest gas is. Ask it where you can get the best bowl of clam chowder in town. Ask it what the weather will be like.
Aside from the human touch factor and the fact that there's dependable personal advice involved, ChaCha is special because users don't have to sift through link after link on tiny cell phone screens.

Indianapolis-based Cha-Cha recently won out over 100 other mobile software developers at the third annual Fast Pitch contest held at the annual CTIA wireless show in Las Vegas. Indianapolis-based ChaCha, won the $25,000 first prize.

ChaCha also has gotten a promotion deal on AT&T's wireless portal MEdiaNet, providing exposure to more than 70 million customers.
Andy and Barney would like it.

For more information, go to chacha.com

Thursday, April 3, 2008

ChaCha Selected as Best New Mobile Service by AT&T at CTIA


Yesterday was a big day for ChaCha at CTIA. Thanks to some outstanding work by the ChaCha team, we were selected by AT&T as the best new consumer mobile product in their fast-pitch competition. What does this mean?

We received $25,000 in prize money (giant "Happy Gilmore" style check being held by Kevin Mazzatta, VP of Biz Dev at ChaCha) and, much more importantly, we will be working with AT&T to introduce ChaCha to their customer base (about 70M folks). What a great way to kick-off the second quarter!

To win, ChaCha competed with hundreds of companies from around the world that applied. Only 66 were selected to present to the judges at CTIA and ChaCha was selected as the winner.

The Fast-Pitch program is considered the wireless industry’s equivalent of American Idol, with emerging mobile technology companies presenting their wireless applications directly to AT&T’s decision makers. Hundreds of companies applied from around the world and were judged based on the following criteria:

1. Originality / Innovation

2. Market appeal

3. Interface design

4. Number of platforms and handsets supported

This news will hit the wire tomorrow but I wanted to get the word out here. Let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them! We are still working with AT&T to define the rollout plan but I will keep updating here as things progress.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Aaron Strout Interviews Me for Podcast on WeAreSmarter.org

Thanks for the great podcast, Aaron!

Check it out here

Here is another podcast that also offers more detail on ChaCha's mobile answers service.

See the post and podcast

1-800-2ChaCha Officially Launched at CTIA

We are having a great show at CTIA so far. Please take a look at the following release from ChaCha regarding our 1-800-2ChaCha service (800-224-2242). Let me know what you think once you try it!

Regards,

--Brad

-------------Press Release-----------------------

ChaCha’s Industry Breakthrough Makes Searching Easy

from Mobile Phones

Call 1-800-2-ChaCha. Ask in your own voice. Receive free answers by text.

LAS VEGAS, April 1, 2008 — From the scoop on the hottest martini bar on the Vegas strip to advice on where to buy the cheapest gas in Manhattan, ChaCha’s ingenious new

1-800-2-ChaCha (800-224-2242) mobile answers service allows mobile phone users to ask an extensive range of questions in conversational English while on the go — and the free answers are texted back within minutes.

The online and mobile search company is announcing its free new voice service today at the CTIA Wireless 2008 global convention in Las Vegas.

You can ask ChaCha almost anything:

· How much sodium is in a McDonald's Big Mac?

·What hotel in downtown Austin has a business center?

·Who won the last Boston Marathon?

·Where can I get the cheapest gas in Orlando, Florida?

·Who stars in the new movie “21”?

ChaCha’s valuable new service instantly routes each question to a human guide — dramatically expanding the questions you can ask well beyond simple phone numbers or addresses. The guides utilize powerful tools to search the Web and quickly return a succinct, relevant answer in a text message with a Web reference link.

“On mobile devices, traditional 411 has been the only easy to use option and it is limited to the basics of only finding a phone number or address,” explains ChaCha CEO Scott A. Jones. “More recently, desktop search engines have attempted to enter the mobile market by forcing users to enter a restricted query with their thumbs on a tiny keypad in a specific way, which causes most people to find other ways of meeting their information needs, such as calling a friend or waiting until they get to a computer, or, worse yet, making less-informed decisions. Using ChaCha is like having thousands of informed friends available by phone to help answer your questions 24 hours a day.”

Moreover, ChaCha works on any mobile phone — from simple flip phones to sophisticated smart phones — with no voice recognition prompts or menus to muddle through.

“With our innovative combination of human intelligence and sophisticated technology, ChaCha’s mobile answers service does the work for you,” explains ChaCha President Brad Bostic. “Another groundbreaking feature is that you can easily reply with follow-up questions, as you might do in a conversation, further demonstrating how superior our new service is compared to 411 or algorithmic search engines.”

ChaCha’s new voice capability further expands upon its award-winning text service launched in January of this year. After only two months of deployment, ChaCha demonstrated at the “My Search is Better than Your Search” competition at the Search Engine Strategies conference in Manhattan that it dominates the mobile search arena by taking top prize for its service’s technical efficiency, relevance and practical functionality.

Additionally, ChaCha was ranked as the “No. 1 Alternative Search Engine” in February — beating out hundreds of companies — by Charles Knight of the blogging network, ReadWriteWeb. Last month, out of 70 promising start-ups presenting at Dow Jones’ “Web Ventures”, ChaCha was selected as a “Top Ten” company by VentureWire’s judges.

"ChaCha's new voice capability pushes the boundaries of mobile 411 beyond its historical name and address limitations," says Greg Sterling, principal of Sterling Market Intelligence and the Program Director for Local Mobile Search. "It represents a next step in the evolution of the industry from directory assistance to voice search."

About ChaCha: ChaCha, a mobile answers service, allows users to call 1-800-2-CHA-CHA (800-224-2242) or text questions to CHACHA (242-242) on mobile phones and receive answers within minutes. ChaCha guides — trained and skilled individuals — use ChaCha's powerful internal search tools to respond to any query. Created by serial entrepreneur Scott A. Jones and Brad Bostic, ChaCha is funded by Bezos Expeditions, the personal investment firm of Jeff Bezos; Morton Meyerson, former President and Vice Chairman of EDS and former Chairman and CEO of Perot Systems; Rod Canion, founding CEO of Compaq Computer; and Jack Gill, well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalist. For more information about ChaCha’s newest features, go to http://www.chacha.com/.

###

Monday, March 31, 2008

Headed to CTIA Las Vegas

I made onto my Southwest airlines 737 this morning and will be departing to Las Vegas for CTIA shortly. This is my first trip out to this conference and I suspect it will be massive and loud -- full of new product announcements that both excite and under-whelm the attendees.

I am accompanied at CTIA by our (ChaCha's) head of business development Jay Highley and Kevin Mazzatta and Darin Leach who are also on the biz dev team.

We have a major announcement regarding ChaCha's mobile answers service coming tomorrow so please check back here to learn more!

Doors are closing - time to sign off.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

ChaCha at SXSW - Mobile Answers Big Hit

The ChaCha marketing team (including me) made a trip down to SXSW in Austin, TX last week. It was an exciting, eventful trip and the ChaCha team did a great job getting the word out about our service. We also met a lot of cool bands, fans, industry folks, and SXSW full-timers. Thousands of new users started texting 242242 (ChaCha) to get answers about when bands were playing, where the big parties were, and what the status of their flights back home were.

We partnered with Spin Magazine, iHeartComix, and PureVolume. The highlight was when one of our folks hung out with Vampire Weekend backstage. They loved ChaCha's text answers service and thought it would be extremely valuable to them while on the road. I had a great time talking to Tommie Sunshine, a 20-year veteran of the DJ and remix scene. Tommie thought ChaCha rocked!

Justin shot a few videos that you can checkout - SXSW part 1; SXSW part 2; SXSW part 3.

Next up for ChaCha marketing, partnerships with some major sports franchises - more to come!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Ask.com Targets Women

So I knew Ask was not making any headway in its quest to make gains against Google and I expected Diller to continue pushing his unique features in an attempt to change all of that but what I just read on MSNBC is really a surprise. Ask.com has announced that it is shifting its focus toward married women who are trying to better manage their households. At ChaCha, we call that the "Dynamic Household".

According to their new CEO, Jim Safka (who I believe ran Match.com), the employees are really excited about this move.

"Everyone at Ask is excited about our clear focus and the trajectory-changing results it will deliver,"
I surely hope Ask is able to make progress with this new niche - as Walt Mossberg points out and I concur, the Ask.com user experience is better overall than rivals such as Google.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

What's Happening with Micro-Yahoo!?

As you all know, Microsoft made an offer to purchase Yahoo! on February 1 and that offer was rejected. It seems that the most commonly held view on the offer and subsequent rejection is that Yahoo! realizes just how badly Microsoft needs them and that Microsoft is willing (and obviously capable) of paying much more for the company.

What's at stake is a stake in the rapidly growing online advertising industry that some project will reach $80 billion by 2010. It's apparent that Yahoo! and Microsoft both need some kind of a spark if they expect to have any chance at competing with Google over the next several years in the online advertising and search markets.

So let's assume that Microsoft will ultimately prevail in taking out the once dominant Yahoo! What is going to happen to the employees? What about the products? Locations? Culture? Etc...? Following are some thoughts on these items based on what is being said among the senior ranks at Microsoft:
* Microsoft expects that, if and win Yahoo! agrees to the transaction, it will close in the second halof of 2008.
* The number one reason for the take-out bid is stated as, "the industry needs a more compelling alternative in search and online advertising."
* Microsoft believes the R&D talent that would pick up could help them better innovate to compete with Google.
* For agencies and advertisers this would result in a more efficient management process for campaigns with a higher yield. Also, they would be pushing hard to extend the ad platform a la Google's multi-channel strategy which is something agencies and advertisers are asking Microsoft to do.
* Of course, they think this will reduce redundant expenses and increase revenue resulting in "greater shareholder value."
* On the topic of cutting duplicate positions in the merger, Microsoft mostly dodges the question pointing to the fact that MS has hired over 20,000 employees since 2005 and that there are many challenges that need to be tackled across the company. I read this to mean some people will surely get canned and that's just part of reality in any merger - especially of this magnitude.
* Microsoft would definitely retain the Yahoo! brand due to its strength in the consumer market. They will not comment on which Yahoo! and Microsoft brands would survive once the companies are combined.
* Microsoft will have a bit of a quandary with their technology integration given that Yahoo! is anti-Microsoft. I am glad to not be leading that integration process... However, Microsoft does claim that in certain cases they are good with leaving open source technologies in place and making the interoperability happen with all of their other Microsoft-based stuff. This has got to be a big concern for all of the engineering talent at Yahoo! If they migrated to MS platforms it would have a massive impact on Yahoo!'s talent pool and would likely result in a massive elimination of jobs. Even though MS s head of their own religion, I actually think it is unlikely that MS would attempt to crater all of the great technology Yahoo! has created.

The Microsoft staff has been told to continue with "business as usual" and to compete aggressively with Yahoo! on deals. They are also not to start any integration discussions until they hear otherwise.

The tone of what I am hearing out of Redmond tells me they are really serious about making this deal happen.

My bet is that Micro-Yahoo! will be a reality by the second half of 2008 and that the focus on integrating the two companies will only serve to distract them and allow Google to distance itself.

I also think emerging players should view this is a great opportunity to continue driving rapid adoption while the big three sort all of this out. For ChaCha, we believe our mobile answers capabilities are truly different than anything the search Goliaths are focusing on. I was recently asked what I thought of my partner stating that ChaCha could "blast right past" Google in mobile. My view is that the race we are running today is demonstrating that we are tapping into a massive base of demand that is not served at all by the big three. Namely, the need to simply ask a question (about anything) and get the answer on any type of phone. With ChaCha, every phone is a smart phone.

If you have yet to try it out, go ahead and text ANY QUESTION to 242242 (spells ChaCha). You will see the difference.

As for Micro-Yahoo!'s mobile plans, it looks like those are about fourth or fifth on a list that looks something like: advertising, search, video, mobile, commerce, and social media.

What do you think of this proposed merger? Will Micro-Yahoo! compete favorably against Google? Or will this all result in more distractions and less competition?

Please post a comment to let me know what you think!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mobile Advertising "Uncharted Territory"

In Barcelona at the recent mobile industry summit mobile advertising was discussed. Many points were raised regarding the applicability of current online ad models in a mobile environment.

"Advertising is not just a straight move from the PC to the mobile phone," Marco Boerries, head of Yahoo's mobile business, said in a keynote speech at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

"We're trying to invent mobile advertising."

Mobile ad revenue estimates over the next four years range broadly - but all believe that the value of this market will be in the billions annually.

For mobile search, ChaCha's team is working to pioneer new models for mobile advertising that will deliver enhanced value to users. That's all I will mention on that... but expect more on that front from ChaCha in the coming months.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Microsoft Buys Danger to Rival Google's Android

In Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress wireless fair Microsoft announced its acquisition of Danger, maker of the Sidekick, calling it critical to winning over key mobile customers to its brand of mobile Internet.

Andy Rubin, who is heading up Google's Android open handset alliance initiative, was co-founder of Danger.

Who do you think will win the mobile handset battle waged by Google and Microsoft?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Alt Search Engines Names ChaCha Text Answers #1

Alternative Search Engines, by Charles Knight, has named ChaCha's text answers service the number one alternative search engine for February. It is great to see the leading authority on alternative search engines has again chosen ChaCha atop such an innovative group of companies.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

ChaCha Mobile Answers Save Lives :-)

I have been blogging about the great experiences ChaCha mobile answers users have been getting with texting their questions to 242242. A particularly good example of this was recently posted by Jesse Stay on his blog.

Then I remembered Cha Cha had a “Human Powered” search engine. I sent a question to “242242″ (CHACHA on your cell phone) via text message on my iPhone asking why my brother was at a standstill. Within just a couple minutes I received a response saying they were cleaning up after near white-out conditions, and to wait out until they cleared up the roads. A link was attached, which also told me there were several accidents ahead and the road was closed (I love my iPhone’s browser!). I quickly called my brother and told him the details so he could decide to find the nearest hotel and wait it out.

ChaCha definitely delivered in this case as it is in thousands of cases every day! If you want to see the full post click here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Brad, 'er, Brian, 'er Brad What's this ChaCha Search Thingy?

Every day I learn about a lot of new things - which is one of the reasons that I love building technology companies - especially a fast-growing mobile search company in ChaCha. In the past week, I learned that Fox has yet another new cable TV channel called Fox Business. I then learned that I was going to be on the Fox Business channel live to talk about ChaCha, which I did yesterday.

While on the show, I learned that my name can actully be used interchangeably with "Brian". I also learned that, with only a few minutes to explain how ChaCha's mobile text answer service 242242 can allow you to get an answer to any question on your mobile phone, it was not worth the effort and time required to tell the host that my name is Brad...

We certainly appreciate the coverage from Fox - I suppose they can call me whatever they want as long as they keep talking about ChaCha!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

ChaCha (242242) Mobile Answers via Text Continue to Build Momentum

ChaCha focused tremendous energy on its launch event at the Sundance Film Festival and I am excited to report that the momentum gathered with thousands of festival goers has continued to build post-Festival. I will be sharing more details soon, but thought I would share this story from CNet by Michelle Meyers. We had a great discussion while I was still at the Festival.

Check out the story here.

All is Now Well with ChaCha (242242) on Sprint

I commented recently that we were having issues with Sybase / Sprint properly handling requests for answers from ChaCha (242242) on Sprint phones. I am happy to report the issue has been resolved and all is running properly so Sprint users can consistently receive timely, accurate answers by texting questions to 242242. Thank you for your patience as Sprint and Sybase resolved these issues.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sprint / Sybase Issues with New ChaCha Text Answers Service

Since Friday evening sometime (probably about 5PM ET) Sybase and Sprint have managed to somehow "break" the flow of questions sent to ChaCha (242242) and answers returned to Sprint handsets. Our network ops team at ChaCha have been working through the weekend with Sybase in an attempt to resolve these issues. One of the more perplexing facts is that the service does occasionally work on Sprint but more often than not it fails.

We have a longer term strategy that will put us in more direct control of these situations but right now we are left to the devices of Sybase who is proving to provide lackluster service at best.

Incredible that Sybase, who is the biggest aggregator of text traffic, is this inept with respect to customer support and basic implementations of what is supposed to be their core competency. I don't generally speak out about partners in this manner but at this point the truth needs to be told.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

All Carriers Live and Well on ChaCha Mobile Text Answers

The ChaCha team worked with Sybase to resolve all carrier issues. Now ChaCha's mobile text answers service - 242242 - works perfectly on all major carriers! Please continue to share your best examples with me. The testimonials are rolling in constantly.

242242 ChaCha Text Answers Soar while Sybase Stumbles

ChaCha's text answers trend continued today with another record-breaking day of volume. We continue to optimize systems and processes daily to provide an continuously improving mobile answers product.

Last night, Sybase, the company that aggregates our messages and routes them through the carriers, made what was believed to be a "simple" migration of routing for Sprint, Nextel, and Boost mobile. This occurred late-night and has caused a disconnect somewhere in the communication chain within Sybase's routing process. The net result is that anyone on these carriers are unable to receive answers. It's really incredulous given that Sybase is the largest provider of this type of routing services. We are working with their team diligently to get this issue resolved.

I will post an update as soon as the status of this routing issue changes so all users are able to again access ChaCha's text answers service.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

ChaCha's Mobile Text Answers are a Hit at Sundance!


ChaCha's mobile text service (2-4-2-2-4-2 = "ChaCha") is a hit with the crowd at the Sundance Film Festival where it is "The Official Text Answers Service". We have really been blown away by the popularity of the service among all festival goers ranging from teenagers gawking at celebrities to the celebrities themselves. The ChaCha team has regularly been stopped by people on the streets who want to convey just how much they love our new text answers product.

I had the opportunity to be at Sundance from the opening Thursday through Sunday (and will return this Friday for the closing weekend) and experience the buzz that ChaCha has created first-hand. One of the biggest fans of ChaCha that I encountered was Quentin Tarantino. Above he is pictured with me and a group of mutual friends we had made at Sundance in the Stella Artois VIP room. He left wearing a ChaCha Beanie and with a ChaCha eGrip on his phone (Sticker with ChaCha logo that keeps phone from sliding off your dashboard).

All-in-all ChaCha's mobile text answers launch is really going well. Please let me know if you have seen us at Sundance or if you have any feedback regarding the service!

Carriers Pushing Texters to Bundled Plans

Text messaging is quickly becoming one of the most profitable and highest growth offerings for carriers in the US.

Text messaging is booming. Nearly 80% of U.S. 18- to 24-year-olds use text messaging, says research firm In-Stat. Text messaging -- formally SMS, for short message service -- set records in 2007, says the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association trade group.

Along with this explosion comes massive revenue growth.

Portio Research says global text messaging revenue will hit $67 billion in '12 vs. $52.5 billion last year.
Casual text messaging users tend to have rate plans that are pay-per-use while heavy texters are moving to bundled rate plans that offer unlimited text messaging. Mobile services such as ChaCha's text answers are only serving to further accelerate use of text messaging.

Monday, January 7, 2008

ChaCha Debuts Mobile Text (242242) Answers

You might notice that the name of my blog has changed! It is subtle, but what was "Brad Bostic's Human Powered Search Blog" is now "Brad Bostic's Mobile Search and Technology Blog". The reason for the change? We finally launched our first mobile product at ChaCha!

After a year of tirelessly building and optimizing our online community of roughly 30,000 ChaCha Guides (real people with expertise in providing online answers to your specific question) and making real-time answers available online, we announced our new text service on January 3rd. The response has been tremendous!

When you get a chance please text your question to ChaCha at 242242. It's easy - Just create a new text message, enter 242242 as the number you are sending the text to, type your question, and send it off! ChaCha will respond with the answer (usually in a couple minutes but difficulty of question will impact the speed of your response).

I want to know what you are asking and how you like the service! Please give it a try and please POST A COMMENT WITH WHAT YOU ASKED AND HOW IT WENT.

Having ChaCha answers available via text has been absolutely amazing for me. I look forward to hearing how you like it.