Google Challenger Neeva ditches consumer search, and goes all in with AI and enterprise

Image credits: Neva

The Challenger Neeva search engine is no more, in its current form at least, as the California-based Mountain View company has revealed it’s wrapping up its consumer business.

Founders Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan wrote in a blog post yesterday that they faced significant challenges in attracting new users, coupled with the difficult economic environment that all businesses are currently facing, which means that it is no longer possible to continue on their current path.

“There is no longer a path toward creating a sustainable business in consumer search,” they wrote. “As a result, over the next few weeks, we will be shutting down and our consumer search product, and moving into a new area of ​​focus.”

Founded in 2019 by former Googlers Ramaswamy and Raghunathan, Neiva Launched a subscription-only (i.e. paid) ad-free search engine in the US two years agobefore adding a Free class to mix after six months. In the months since, Neeva says it has amassed more than 600,000 users, though the vast majority of them were on a free plan. In search of growth, Neeva embarked on a rapid global expansion exercise starting in Europe in October, and then set about trying to completely reinvent the search experience with a new AI engine that combines multiple results and sources to create a single answer.

The general idea was death to the “ten blue ties”.


NeevaAI in action Image credits: TechCrunch

Neeva has also been working on a standalone AI search app called Gist, and while it’s been made available on Android already, its planned iOS launch at the end of March has been constantly delayed with little explanation.

David versus Goliath and Goliath

The number of layoffs in the tech space over the past year is a clear indication of the difficult economic headwinds that even the largest companies are facing, something Neeva hasn’t been immune to. The company has raised north of $75 million since its inception, including from well-known backers like Sequoia and Greylock, but more than two years after raising a Series B, Neeva was likely considering a Series C round — something that, after all, is obviously It wasn’t forthcoming.

While Neeva’s promise of a true alternative to Google was based largely on an ad-free experience and its search stack, the bottom line is that it was always a daunting undertaking to dislodge Google from its lofty position. That’s something deep rival Microsoft recently tried to do by injecting a bit of OpenAI’s ChatGPT into its Bing search engine, prompting Google to accelerate its efforts in the space with Bard.

Obviously, this was the case of David v. Goliath and Goliath, although Neva had some support from other competitors like and Brave. What is clear from all of this is that Neeva has not seen the growth that she or her investors had hoped. Still, the two founders insist that convincing users to pay for ad-free search wasn’t the hard part — the main challenge was actually getting them to convert from the big name owners (mostly from Google).

“Contrary to popular belief,” the founders wrote, “convincing users to pay for a better experience was actually less of a problem than getting them to try a new search engine in the first place.” “Throughout this journey, we’ve discovered that it’s one thing to build a search engine, and quite another to convince regular users of the need to switch to a better option. From the unnecessary friction required to change default search settings, to the challenges in helping people understand the difference between a search engine and a browser, it was User acquisition is really hard.”

Enterprise search

As part of the consumer business shutdown, Neeva said it would issue refunds to those with paid subscriptions, and delete all user data. But this does not necessarily mean the end of the Niva. The company had previously hinted at some future monetization plans beyond paid subscriptions, including licensing deals to run in-house app search — and that could be a path it pursues with more haste, now that it’s wrapping up the main part of its business.

Earlier this week, reports emerged that Neeva was in discussions with cloud giant Snowflake about a potential acquisition, and in light of the news that Neeva is shifting away from the consumer, such a deal makes a lot of sense. Essentially, taking the work you’ve already done with LLMs and research, and putting it to use in very specific use cases – particularly within an organization that doesn’t want to rely on technology provided by the likes of Google or Microsoft, or doesn’t want to start its own in-house development. it from the beginning.

But Neeva has yet to confirm any specific plans for what’s to come, whether that be as part of a larger enterprise or licensing its technology for use by others.

“Over the past year, we have seen a clear and urgent need to use LLM effectively, inexpensively, securely, and responsibly,” the founders concluded. “Many of the technologies we have pioneered with small forms, reduced size, reduced latency, and inexpensive deployment are items that organizations really want and need today. We are actively exploring how we can apply our research and masters expertise to these settings, and will provide updates on the future of our work and our team in the next few weeks. “.

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