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Google challenger Neeva gives up on consumer search, goes all in on AI and the enterprise

Challenger search engine Niva is no more, at least in its current form, as the Mountain View, California-based company revealed it is spinning off its consumer business.

Founders Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan wrote in a blog post yesterday that they faced significant challenges in attracting new users, which, combined with the difficult economic climate currently facing all companies, meant that it It is no longer viable to continue on its present course.

“There is no longer a path toward building a sustainable business in consumer search,” he wrote. “As a result, over the next few weeks, we will be discontinuing and our consumer search product, and shifting to a new area of ​​focus.”

Founded in 2019 by former Googlers Ramaswamy and Raghunathan, Neeva Launched an ad-free, subscription-only (i.e. paid) search engine in the US two years agoEarlier Add a Free tier to mix after six months. In the months that followed, Niva said it had more than 600,000 users, though most of them were on a free plan. Looking for growth, Neeva began a rapid global expansion exercise, starting with Europe back in October, and then went on to try to revamp the entire search experience with a new generative AI engine that returned more than a single answer. Combine many results and sources to create.

The death of the “10 Blue Lynx” was the general idea.

NeevaAI in action image credit: TechCrunch

Niva was also working on a standalone generative AI search app called Gist, and while it was already made available on Android, its planned iOS launch in late March was continually delayed by way of explanation.

david vs goliath and goliath

The number of layoffs in the tech sector over the past year is a clear indicator of the tough economic constraints even the largest companies are facing, something that may not have been impenetrable to Nieva. The company had raised north of $75 million since its inception, which included big-name backers like Sequoia and Greylock, but more than two years since its Series B, Niva has to think about a Series C round. was supposed to – something that, in the end, was clearly not forthcoming.

While Niva’s promise of a real alternative to Google was based largely around an ad-free experience and its own search stack, the bottom line is that it was always going to be a tough undertaking to knock Google off its perch. . This is something its deep-pocketed rival Microsoft has been trying to do of late by injecting a bit of OpenAI’s ChatGPT into its Bing search engine, prompting Google to accelerate its own efforts in the space with Bard. can be inspired.

So it was clearly a case of David vs Goliath and Goliath though Niva had some backup from other challengers like and Brave. From all this, it is clear that Neeva has not seen the growth it or its investors had expected. However, the two founders are adamant that persuading users to pay for ad-free search wasn’t the hard part – the main challenge was really getting them to switch from the big-name ones (mostly Google). Was.

“Contrary to popular belief, persuading users to pay for a better experience was actually a less difficult problem,” the founders wrote. “Throughout this journey, we have found that it is one thing to build a search engine, and an entirely different thing to convince regular users of the need to switch to a better alternative. From the unnecessary friction required to change default search settings, to the challenges in helping people understand the difference between search engines and browsers, it’s been really hard to get users.

enterprise search

As part of the consumer business closure, Niva said it would issue refunds to those with paid subscriptions, and that it would delete all user data. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the end for Neeva. The company previously hinted at some future monetization plans beyond paid subscriptions, including licensing deals to power application discovery inside enterprises — and that could be a route it takes with more urgency now, Now it is shutting down a core part of its business.

Earlier this week, reports emerged that Niva was in discussions with cloud giant Snowflake about a potential acquisition, and in light of the news that Niva is moving away from consumer, such a deal makes a lot of sense. Essentially, it’s already working with the Large Language Model (LLM) and search, and is putting it to use in very specific use-cases – specifically inside an enterprise that operates with the likes of Google. Don’t want to rely on technology provided by Microsoft or Microsoft, or start your own internal development from scratch.

But Neeva has yet to confirm any specific plans for what will happen next, whether as part of a larger venture or to license its technology for others to use.

The founders concluded, “Over the past year, we have seen a clear, pressing need to access the LLM effectively, affordably, safely and responsibly.” “Many of the technologies we pioneered, along with miniaturized models, size reduction, latency reduction, and affordable deployment, are elements that enterprises really want, and need, today. We are actively exploring how we can apply our research and LLM expertise in these settings, and we will provide updates on our work and our team’s future over the next few weeks.

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