Search finds $100 million – and more to come?

A few years ago I was asked by an investment group to give an opinion on some novel search technology coming out of a university in Northern Europe. They had stumbled over this technology, but it was not a core area of their investment portfolio. They wanted to know who they might approach for the additional funding that the developers needed. I had to tell them that the availability of venture capital for search applications was virtually non-existent. I kept track of the team for a while but it disbanded after a couple of years and I have no idea what happened to the ideas they had developed.

What a difference now. The investment in search has been quite remarkable since around 2010.

  • LucidWorks $10M
  • Attivio $42M
  • Coveo $18M
  • ElasticSearch $34M

That’s quite close enough to $100M to justify the title of this blog post, and I may have missed some smaller investments.  This level of funding is going to make a significant difference to the rate of growth of these vendors and to the overall search market. It may also encourage other companies and development teams to consider seeking out venture investment and you can be certain that many venture investment companies have now opened up a filing cabinet drawer labelled Search. I also get a sense that there is rapidly increasing demand for good search applications. There was a comment in the Flax blog recently that the company is busier than it has ever been and it expects the trend to continue.

There was an interesting blog from Miles Kehoe recently in which he suggested that open-source search was now the ‘safe’ option. Looking at the investment levels listed above that seems a reasonable supposition.However I have some doubts that it is quite as simple as Miles suggests. Overall the level of activity and funding in search makes me feel that my feeling that 2013 was a critical year for search was not too far off reality. I’ll be covering developments in the search business and taking a view of the future of the business in my Enterprise Search master class in March .

Martin White