Remember ChaCha, the "human-powered" search engine based in Indiana with curiously deep — and poorly disclosed — ties to local power brokers? Now, Indiana University contends its decision to select human-assisted search engine ChaCha had nothing to do with those ties. University president and former ChaCha board member, Michael McRobbie, had nothing to do with it. Neither did newly appointed university trustee and Chacha investor and advisor, Jack Gill. The decision was made solely by the university's CTO Brad Wheeler. Oh, but never mind that Wheeler was appointed by McRobbie, his predecessor in the CTO post. A new Fortune profile of Chacha CEO and founder Scott Jones makes this telling of events even more suspiciously convenient.
We'd heard of state birds, but official state websites? Yes. Mitch Daniels, Indiana's governor, helped select human-powered search engine ChaCha as the state's official website. He also played a role in conscripting Indiana University staff as unpaid "guides" for ChaCha. Now it's time for Scott Jones, CEO and founder of ChaCha, his investors, and friends to return the favor. Tomorrow, Jones will be hosting a fundraiser at his megamansion, inviting business leaders both Midwestern and bicoastal with the hope of raising a million dollars in a single day.
The Herald-Times of Bloomington, Indiana has followed up (subscription required) on our previous story questioning the Indiana University-ChaCha deal. The local paper's charitable conclusion: Neither side lied, but both independently made contradictory "inadvertent errors." As did the newspaper, in reporting on a new development — without pointing out the glaringly obvious ChaCha link. Newly appointed Indiana University trustee Jack Gill is not a full-time resident of Indiana, a requirement for trustees appointed by the Governor to the University — but he's also a venture capitalist and major investor in ChaCha (PDF).