"Mahalo" CEO Jason Calacanis Speaks

The latest iterations of search engines foretell the future of how we find what we seek on the web. Search engine marketing gurus everywhere have dedicated their tradecraft to building content destinations. Search bots find the information and listings appear in search results.


Jason Calcanis is founder, Mahalo

The only problem is, compared to the number of people searching, few actually know how to manipulate or optimize search results. While major search engines debate the content quality issue a few search providers have stepped up to solve the problem.

Cha Cha is a search destination with live human guides. Mahalo is the latest iteration of search vehicles that seeks to apply value to the human equation by limiting possible search spammers and gratuitous listings. While Mahalo is still in its alpha release, the "Thank You" guide is showing some promise.

I caught up with Mahalo founder Jason Calcanis to find out what's in store for his new search engine.  

Kevin Ryan: What was the motivation for Mahalo (other than the money)?

Jason Calcanis: The goal is to help every internet user, every day. (Money isn't really a motivator for me right now, making impact is).

Ryan: Do you think there is room for another search engine?

Calcanis: Of course, I wouldn't launch a company if I didn't. However, I would say that we are not really a search engine or a directory: we're a search service.

Ryan: With the long history of failures of search listing aggregators, how will Mahalo keep it simple?

Calcanis: The quality of our Guides and the SERPs (search engine result pages) they create will be the most important determination of our success. The second most important issue will be listening to our users and what they tell us about our SERPs.

We are releasing search results which are 60 to 70 percent complete right now and we hope that the public will help us get them to 90 to 100 percent complete.

Ryan: How large is the editorial staff of Mahalo?

Calcanis: We have 40 full-time people at the company right now. Most are editorial.

Ryan: How will Mahalo attract and retain searchers?

Calcanis: We will make this the best job they've ever had in their lives. Right now we offer solid salaries, benefits, free lunch, flexible hours, and stock options, as well as the opportunity to change the world. Also, we think there is a career path in being a "Guide." 

At Weblogs, Inc. we made a career path for bloggers from part time to full-time, from casual blogger to expert. We will do the same with searchers, as you call them.

Ryan: Number 4 on today's top searches was the term "Google" why do you think people search for a search engine on a search engine?

Calcanis: Right now the top two IP addresses coming into Mahalo are from Microsoft and Google: I suspect Googlers are searching for themselves.

Ryan: The editorial process is seeking to limit spam, how do you react to those who say you are in effect censoring search results?

Calcanis: Censoring spam? You're kidding right? If censoring spam is a crime then let Mahalo be guilty!

The rule of search
There have been quite a few players entering the search marketplace with attempts to create a more refined search experience, i.e. search aggregators. Most have fallen or been forced to shift their business model to accommodate demands from investors to generate revenue.

Unfortunately, many have simply forgotten the Golden search rule: keep it simple.

I downloaded a recently launched search browser tool, took it for a test drive and uninstalled it almost as fast. From the outset it looked complicated, was a tremendous drain on PC resources and failed the parent test (could my father use this?). I then tried it on one of my newer machines and was warned that my machine didn’t have enough get up and go. Odd for something that is supposed to make my life easier.

Our world isn’t getting any less complicated, but at least the precious few stepping up to make search a bit more human seem to have their arms wrapped around the defined need for a new way to create relevance.

Kevin M. Ryan is Chief Executive Officer at Motivity Marketing. Read full bio.

 

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