For most of 2009, SMS-based, human-powered question-and-answer service ChaCha has made surprising leaps up Nielsen Mobile’s rating for mobile search services.
ChaCha, which uses $2.50-an-hour freelancers to answer questions texted to it at 242242, has been the fastest-growing mobile search service all year, according to Nielsen. ChaCha shot from 7 percent market share to 28 percent in 90 days in the first half of 2009.
Today, in a post about ChaCha’s financials, TechCrunch editor Mike Arrington mentioned in passing that “They recently passed Google and ChaCha is the no. 1 SMS search service according to Nielsen Mobile.”
Is that true? I haven’t been able to catch Mike, ChaCha, or Nielsen today to confirm that statement.
It’s one thing to be the fastest climber on Nielsen’s chart, but it’s a whole new game if ChaCha is the #1 mobile search service. That would mean a startup from Carmel, Indiana has beaten Google at its core product, search.
I wrote about ChaCha last week when the company announced $7 million in new funding. The Indiana-based company, founded in 2006, had redefined itself away from Web chats and onto SMS to provide answers to customers’ questions. By doing everything in short text blasts from near-volunteers, ChaCha CEO Scott Jones told TechCrunch that they’ll soon be spending less than a penny per answer.
P.S. A clarificatin: TechCrunch’s headline might lead you to think ChaCha is profitable as a company. To be clear, Jones said they are profitable on each search. As for the overall operation, Arrington estimated that “Their current revenue run rate is $9 million or so. My guess is they need to roughly double that to become profitable as a business and support their 60 or so full time employees.”