Daring to go up against powerhouses like Google and Yahoo is no small feat, but serial entrepreneurs Scott A. Jones, 46, and Brad Bostic, 32, believe they have what it takes to outdo the search masters. In 2005, Jones was preparing a speech when he discovered he could gather material for it faster by calling knowledgeable friends than by using the top search engines. Acting fast on that enterprising revelation, he and Bostic decided to found ChaCha, a people-powered search engine that takes search up a notch by combining computer results with human intelligence.
The Carmel, Indiana, company features a community of more than 30,000 human "guides" ready to chat live with users who need assistance. And a team of influential investors--led by Bezos Expeditions, the investment firm started by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and including Compaq co-founder Rod Canion--contributed $6.5 million in 2006 alone. With year-end sales expected to reach into the eight digits, Jones is already fully engaged in the next stage: cell phone search. "That's the really giant idea," he says. "And that's a greenfield market."