There’s no denying that Google’s search engine is pretty great. Ask a question, get an answer.
But Google has created an expectation that all search features should be easy to use and just as accurate. That’s why it’s really frustrating when you use the search function on a random website or in an app and you can’t find what you’re looking for.
That’s where Algolia, a San Francisco-based startup, comes in. The company’s sole focus is providing developers at companies like Amazon’s Twitch and Twitter’s Periscope with the tools they need to build their own first-class search features.
“Google kind of raised expectations for everyone,” Algolia CEO and co-founder Nicolas Dessaigne told Business Insider. But that kind of experience is “impossible to deliver” for most programmers, because their resources are much more limited than those of the search giant. “That’s where we help,” he added.
Algolia is announcing on Thursday it’s received an additional $US53 million in funding, led by returning investor Accel. All told, Algolia, which has 115 employees, has raised a little more than $US74 million.
The startup has 3,000 paying customers, according to Dessaigne. Some 65% of its revenue comes from larger business customers, with the rest from smaller, independent developers.
‘A big advantage’
Algolia’s tech wouldn’t work to power a whole web search engine like Google or Microsoft Bing, because Algolia lacks those companies data and scale, noted Dessaigne.
But what the company can offer customers is a lot more flexibility than the big guys. Its search technology can be customised for particular sites. And Algolia customers can take its service and focus it specifically on what they need.
Because of that, “we have, actually, a big advantage,” Dessaigne said.
Periscope uses Algolia’s tech to show on a world map the location of every ongoing livestream video, giving it a more visual way to represent search results. Online stores like Birchbox use Algolia’s tools to power searches of their product catalogues. And $US9 billion financial startup Stripe has incorporated Algolia’s tech into its support pages, allowing developers to more easily find the tools they need to build Stripe’s payments technology into their apps or websites.
“We can deliver better search than Google…for a specific use case,” Dessaigne said.
To bolster is offerings — and allow customers’ search features to better resemble Google’s — Algolia has added new features, such as an offline search capability and the ability to comb through and find street addresses. Going forward, Algolia is keeping an eye on virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, to figure out how it can best integrate its technology into them as an app or a “skill.”
Algolia is also bulking up its staff. The company already has offices in San Francisco, Paris, New York City, and Atlanta, and it plans on staffing up in all of those locations across multiple departments, Dessaigne said.
On top of everything, though, Algolia plans to just keep working on building better ways for developers to put their own spin on search. Google’s continual improvements of its own search engine are good for Algolia, he said. They raise expectations among users for how search should work — and send developers scrambling for ways to mimic Google’s new search features in their own apps and on their own sites.
“We’re not competing with Google, so much as leveraging their success,” Dessaigne said.
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