Could a Bezos-backed search startup kick Google’s crown off?

An AI-forward search alternative has great backing, a little momentum — and an impossible foe.

My lifetime basketball shooting percentage is probably 0.0002%, yet: I hereby challenge LeBron James to a one-on-one game of hoops.

Search market share in the USA versus worldwide

… That’s roughly the equivalent of any startup looking at Google’s search dominance and saying, “Sure, we can take them.”

Few companies in any industry rival Google’s global market share (~92%), making it damn hard to bet against them — but one emerging challenger, Perplexity, is readying its shot at the throne.

It’ll now do so with an extra $74m in the bank, per The Wall Street Journal, having swayed prominent investors, including chip titan Nvidia, Jeff Bezos, and former YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.

Why are they betting on Perplexity?

AI, naturally. We’re used to search engines providing loads of links we can page through to find the best information; Perplexity cuts out the middleman, providing a succinct, straightforward AI-fueled response to every query.

Perplexity considers itself an “answer engine” rather than a “search engine,” and its streamlined approach, which went live in December 2022, has attracted not-insignificant attention:

  • It claimed 10m monthly active users in 2023, with 500m+ queries served.
  • Its latest funding round, which followed a $25.6m raise last March, valued the company at $520m.

Of course, those numbers pale in comparison to the industry standard: Google processes ~8.5B searches every day, and its parent, Alphabet, is worth $1.7T.

So, what happens next?

As it tries to gain a foothold in a market that has eluded deeper-pocketed challengers like Microsoft and Yahoo, Perplexity has a tall task ahead:

  • It must sort out a sustainable business model; though the startup makes $5m-$10m in annual revenue, it isn’t currently profitable.
  • Perplexity must develop a product trustworthy enough to avoid user concerns about AI hallucinations.
  • It must hope Google’s own AI-summarized features in development won’t render theirs redundant.
  • And it must generally aim to avoid the fate of Neeva, a similar product that went belly-up last spring.

Finally: Is any article about competing with Google really complete without a hit of nostalgia, remembering would-be foes? AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, Lycos, Dogpile, WebCrawler. There you go. You’re very welcome!

Topics: Ai Google Startup

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