Algolia acquires Aussie startup Search.io for more than $100 million
Software company Algolia has acquired Sydney startup Search.io, and will build a hybrid search application programming interface (API) that combines its own keyword search with Search.io’s vector-based semantic search, in what it’s calling the “world’s first and only hybrid search engine”.
Search.io was previously known as Sajari. In 2020, Tidal Ventures invested in the Sydney-based startup as part of a $30 million round. Tidal Ventures, as well as Search.io founders David Howden and Hamish Ogilvy, are expected to pocket tidy returns in this week’s acquisition by the French-founded Algolia.
Financial terms of the sale have not been disclosed, but it’s understood the nine-figure deal was “comfortably above $100 million” and was made up of both cash and scrip, according to the AFR.
“We are delighted to be joining a world-class leader in search and discovery,” said Ogilvy.
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Ogilvy explains that delivering on the promise of AI search has traditionally required tremendous internal expertise and engineering resources.
“Beyond delivering better search experiences, this must also be done reliably, quickly, and cost-effectively.”
The combination of Algolia’s keyword search power and the vector-based semantic search, he says, “is an exciting and truly unique solution”.
So, what is vector search?
Search.io’s main product is Neuralsearch, a “vector search engine that uses hashing technology on top of vectors to provide unprecedented price performance at scale”, says an Algolia release.
Search.io is currently in use on sites such as the BBC, Catch, Lockheed Martin, the NSW government, Sennheiser and more.
According to Search.io, Neuralsearch “eliminates much of the hard work previously required to make search work well. For instance you no longer need to add synonyms, complex search rules, keyword-stuff titles, or plug-in additional language packs”.
Vector search applies complex numbers to phrases and items, and then finds comparisons and matches with the numbers applied to other items, aiming to introduce the ability to produce search results that are sensitive to context and remove the need for adjusting search entries.
“Search.io has built is a vector database-based engine that uses AI to convert content into numerical values, where relevance can be determined based on proximity to the next nearest number,” explained Sean Michael Kerner of VentureBeat.
“The seamless combination of keyword search and vector-based semantic search will empower any organization to deliver the best in class search and discovery experience to its end users whether they are using keywords, short or long form expressions, or natural language queries without any keywords ,” said the Algolia release.
“With the addition of the vector search engine from Search.io, we’re going to disrupt the search market significantly,” said Bernadette Nixon, Algolia CEO.