Neeva, a search engine company founded by two IITians, and ex-Google employees is on its way to give Google a strong competition by providing users an ad-free search experience. The company is founded by Sridhar Ramaswamy, an ex-SVP of Ads at Google and Vivek Raghunathan who was the ex-VP of Monetization at YouTube.
According to a study by eMarketer, the search-ad market will be $64.73 billion in 2021 and by 2023 it will be approximately $86.06 billion. In the search business, even a small two-digit share could mean a multi-billion-dollar company.
Neeva founders Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan know this all too well. Before getting completely hands-on board with Neeva, Sridhar worked for 15 years at google as an in-charge of Google’s entire ad division. Vivek Raghunathan on the other hand served as a Vice President of YouTube’s monetization division. Given their expertise in the search-ad domain, they could as well have created a product that would bite the massive piece of the market.
Instead, they are doing something on the contrary. Sridhar along with Vivek Raghunathan and a team of 100 individuals is creating a search engine with no ads at all called Neeva. According to Sridhar, a person who wants to search on Neeva won’t ever be pestered by ads. Instead, they will have to pay a monthly subscription fee. The subscription fee is undisclosed as of now.
Sridhar and Vivek are on their way to bring about a Google-killer by completely inverting the search engine model from ads to a subscription fee. This way, the founders and their team will be able to incentivize themselves to create a search engine that will have privacy, user experience, and security in its core instead of scaling more and more and more.
According to Sridhar, “The ad model has been great for bringing search to everyone on the planet, but over time, there is more and more pressure to show more ads and not really what the user wants. Our thesis is that we can create a much better search product, focusing solely on what a customer needs.”
Prioritizing user’s privacy over other aspects, Neeva promises to come with a multitude of features. For example, in a world where most tech products store the history of their users’ data indefinity, Neeva will only store the customer’s search history for 90 days and will provide an option to store it.
Another instance of Neeva’s ingenuity is their decision of making data transparent and transferable. According to Neeva’s ‘digital bill of rights’: “Your information belongs to you. Products should make it easy for you to download everything they store about you. You should also be able to use your data with whatever service you prefer. Some companies offer this functionality, but it can take advanced technical knowledge to port your data over to the service of your choice. True data ownership means the ability to see, use, and move your information as you wish.”
Another interesting feature Neeva is developing over its search functionality is the feature to search the personal files from the browser itself. In a demo to Indian Express, Sridhar searched for tax documents and pictures all of which surfaced within the search results on the browser in the Neeva’s interface. Through this feature, Neeva aims to become a search engine where people go when they are looking for anything and everything, no matter where it is and what it is.
Rather than building a search engine from scratch, the founders decided to create a search interface that uses Bing’s search API for basic search results. They are also working towards bringing to the surface more elementary things such as maps, Wikipedia information, weather, etc. So one can rest assured that the search results they would see on Neeva won’t be any different from the competitors.
Currently, Neeva is in closed beta and one can sign themselves into their waiting list. According to the company’s founder they Neeva will launch somewhere in early 2022. So far Neeva has gone on to raise $37.5 million with investors like Sequoia Capital, Greylock having their back.