I am going to start this post with a disclosure. We've known Jason Calacanis since 1995 and have been through a lot with him. The Gotham Gal was his partner in his first venture, Silicon Alley Reporter, in the late 90s. We, The Gotham Gal and me, are personal investors in Mahalo and have been since the start of the company.
So what is Mahalo? It's a search engine, just like Google, except that the search engine result pages (serps) are built by humans not machines. This has been done before, in fact many times before (Magellan, Look Smart, etc, etc). It's never been particularly successful. But Jason's got a model to build serps really cheaply and in my experience with Jason over the years, I've come to realize that you can never ever count him out. He's scrappy, tenacious, and usually successful.
Here a a few result pages. You'll see immediately how and why it's different than Google.
Search for iPhone
Search for Barack Obama
And of course, the obligatory search for your own name
You can see that the result pages look a bit more like wikipedia than they do Google. When Jason first described the idea to me, he said he was going to combine wikipedia, weblogs inc, and google. I think he's done a pretty good job of executing on that basic concept.
Time will tell how popular Mahalo becomes. I think the result pages are a lot better than Google, but they only have about 5,000 result pages right now. If you search for a term that they don't have done yet, you'll get something that looks like this with google links below it.
I am frankly shocked that they didn't do the shake shack in the first 5,000 terms. It would have been in my top ten!
And the name, well I am not going to say much about that other than I can never remember how to spell it but hopefully I am in the minority on that.
I am rooting for Jason on multiple levels. First, he's a friend of ours. Second, we are investors. And third, I think there has not been much innovation in search in a long time. Google's dominance of the category has made it an area many of the best entrepreneurs avoid. Thankfully Jason's the kind of person who is always looking for a challenge and he's certainly found one in Mahalo.