Twiggle isn’t a name you’ll be familiar with, but the Israeli stealth startup has today announced a $12.5 million funding round that should go some way toward putting it on the map.
The company was founded in 2013 by a team including Dr. Amir Konigsberg, who previously worked at Google and was formerly managing director at MySupermarket.com, and Dr. Avi Avidor, a former engineering lead at Google. In a nutshell, Twiggle is building the backend smarts to power ecommerce companies’ search capabilities, using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning techniques, such as natural language processing (NLP).
Rather than going up against well-established search giants like Google, Twiggle is working more along the lines of A9, a search and ad-tech subsidiary created by Amazon more than a decade ago. While A9 is what Amazon itself uses to power search across its myriad properties, the technology has also been opened to third-party online retailers. And it’s this territory Twiggle is now looking to encroach on.
Twiggle’s technology isn’t yet open to one and all — you have to request early access — but it’s currently being rolled out with a number of “large ecommerce players,” though no further details are being revealed at present.
It seems, however, that Twiggle’s technology is centered around helping ecommerce companies convert potential customers into paying customers by surfacing the most relevant results based on the keywords used. And there’s no reason this won’t extend into visual search (similar to A9), whereby a user can simply show a picture of a product they like to the machine, and it will find similar items. With natural language processing, a user could also type a very specific, nuanced description into a search engine, and Twiggle’s smarts will unearth the exact products a customer seeks. How this ultimately differs from the likes of A9 remains to be seen, but it will likely come down to the amount of data it harnesses and how it’s cataloged.
“Search is an incredibly complicated medium, and this complexity has led to a situation of incremental growth and sub-standard optimization,” said Konigsberg, who serves as CEO at Twiggle. “Twiggle is infusing search with an entirely new approach that will allow digital commerce giants to redefine the shopper’s experience, increasing revenues and enabling digital commerce to reach its full potential.”
The $12.5 million series A round was led by South African Internet giant Naspers, with participation from a bunch of new and existing investors, which include Yahoo Japan, State of Mind Ventures, and Sir Ronald Cohen. We’re told the funding will be used to drive the company’s “aggressive global expansion plans.” And with Naspers on board, Twiggle is in good company — the Cape Town-based corporation has invested in a number of notable tech and ecommerce startups in the past, including Flipkart, Avito, Mail.ru, and Tencent.
“Naspers has always believed in working closely with the companies we invest in to help them maximize their potential,” said Larry Illg, CEO at Naspers Ventures. “Twiggle is setting a new industry standard for ecommerce search and discovery, redefining the sector with a search platform that will bring unparalleled precision and accuracy.”