Twiggle’s groundbreaking technology works with e-commerce giants to make the online shopping experience more natural
Coming a little over a month after the news broke of their sizeable Series A, Israel-based Twiggle announced today that they have secured a follow-on investment from the e-commerce giant Alibaba.
While the exact amount of the deal is unlikely to be disclosed, this second tranche of their Series A is believed to be somewhere in the $5 million range. When added to the $2.2 million seed and the $12.5 million from the first part of the round that came from strategic investor Naspers, along with State of Mind Ventures and Sir Ronald Cohen, their total funding to date comes into the very respectable vicinity of $20 million.
Twiggle was co-founded in December 2013 by CEO Dr. Amir Konigsberg, previously one of the members of Google’s emerging markets operations and former managing director of MySupermarket.com, and Dr. Adi Avidor, a former engineering tech lead at Google.
The company’s groundbreaking technology works with e-commerce giants to make the online shopping experience more natural, allowing consumers to describe what they are looking for in real human language and receive results that are actually relevant.
This can mean searching Amazon for the “smartphone with the best battery” and seeing smartphones with highly rated batteries. If you try this now, you will likely just see a set of external batteries. Go try it. I’ll wait.
Okay, so that was painful. Right?
Are you ready for something different?
Market validation from strategic investors
Speaking on the participation of strategic investors like Alibaba and Naspers, Konigsberg tells Geektime that, “They saw the value and huge potential for the industry and therefore wanted to be part of this, hence we thought it was a fantastic idea to put this together.”
“For a startup funding round to get to such significant voices in the Internet and e-commerce world, participating together in the same company is a very big validation of the market fit of our product and the enthusiasm for the type of solution we have,” he says, adding that, “It’s very rare to have two such large strategic companies participating in the same round.”
While there may have been a slowdown in some parts of the industry from VCs over the past two quarters, particularly in the U.S., Konigsberg says that they have not felt the ripples affecting the interest on their side of the pond.
“We are having a lot of interest from top tier VCs,” Konigsberg tells Geektime. “But the interesting thing about strategic investors is that in many cases they see game changing companies that beside bringing a sizeable return on investment for their own money, can actually bring value either to their own portfolio of assets or larger strategic considerations.”
This round was primarily a strategic investor one, even with the participation of State of Mind Ventures. As Konigsberg sees it, working with the strategic investors opens up the gateway to important networks where they will be able to deploy their product down the road.
They want to demonstrate their value within the sphere of the strategic investors’ interests.
Konigsberg says that they want to show value very quickly, and believes that partnering with such large and strategic groups will help them reach their goals. He adds though that they are working to scale up in a manageable and well thought out manner, preferring to work with a limited number of clients at first, making sure that they do the job right before expanding out more extensively.
Post funding planning
Konigsberg tells Geektime that on the technology development side they want to scale their infrastructure to deal with what he terms “copious amounts of data.” Since they are dealing with the rapidly expanding collection of e-commerce data, contending with hundreds of thousands of searches a second, they understand the need to ramp up their abilities to take on this Herculean task of handling them quickly.
In particular, he notes that in order to better work with the product data, they need to create large amounts of metadata that describe the items listed in their clients’ databases. The magic behind Twiggle’s innovation is its capacity to understand the characteristics of the products, and then match them with the way that humans actually think and speak when searching for them.
Konigsberg says that improving their machine learning technology to take on the complexities contained in this mission will be of huge importance.
To this end, they plan on doubling the size of their R&D team in Israel by the end of the year and expanding their support capabilities to deploy their product with their large-scale clients.
This year they will scale their product to work with two to three partners, but plan on expanding to more the following year. “We want to turn this technology into a fully scalable product,” he says. To this end, they have brought on Noa Ganot, the former Head of Product at eBay’s structured data program.
Along with Ganot, Twiggle is bringing to their Board of Directors a legend in the pioneering of search, Dr. Udi Manber. Having previously served as the Chief Scientist at Yahoo, Founder and CEO of Amazon’s search unit A9, and then finally becoming the Head of Search at Google, he will add even more value to the team’s pool of knowledge and creativity.
Why Twiggle excites a not-so-enthusiastic online shopper
It is hard not to get excited about Twiggle’s growth and innovation. Even as someone who is not much of an online shopper, their work is significantly improving the way that we interact with technology and the internet et large.
Twiggle’s machine learning is bringing us towards a future where AI could actually become far more effective and relevant to our lives, with integration that could reach beyond just finding the right kind of battery for my camera.
Until then, Twiggle should be one of the top companies to watch as they start working with the world’s leading e-commerce platforms, hopefully sooner rather than later.