The online question-and-answer market has had a lot of different iterations over the years, starting out first with sites focused on everyday, practical knowledge and trivia and later expanding — by way of sites like Quora and Branch — into longer discourses on bigger issues. Today, ChaCha, one of the earliest movers in Q&A, is announcing that it is raising another $14 million to continue growing its business in the space. Total funding to date for the company is now $89 million.
The funding was led by VantagePoint Capital Partners, Rho Ventures and Qualcomm, all previous backers of the company, and the idea is to continue further expanding ChaCha’s business as it stands today: with a focus on more social interactions that link in with brand marketing and lots of affiliated services.
In the spectrum of Q&A sites covering short bursts of information through to deeper debates on big issues, ChaCha very much started out in the former, around the same time as players like Ask Jeeves (now ask.com) and Yahoo Answers.
But as ChaCha has built out its business, it has created an enhanced information dashboard that may not be “deep” in the verbose sense but is in the linked sense. Along with an answer to a topic, users now get links to supplemental information, along with affiliate links to outside, relevant sites, as well as lots of options to share your knowledge. You can see how this sort of framework could potentially prove to be a useful way for people to interact with the whole web at large, as a more targeted version of a search portal.
ChaCha is, at heart, a mass-market play: company has already clocked up some 2 billion questions and answers since first opening for business in 2005, and has 45 million monthly unique visitors on its site, in addition to those who access the service on mobile apps, through mobile text and via a voice-response phone number. This makes it one of the top-five sites in the U.S. and among the top 50 websites, the company says.
Below is an interview with CEO and founder Scott Jones, who talks about what makes ChaCha unique in the Q&A field, and why he believes that sites like his are just as essential to online engagement and learning about topics as a complement to what sites like Quora bring to the table.