Developer-focused search engine Marqo raises US$5.2m

Developer-focused search engine Marqo raises US$5.2m

Marqo co-founders Jesse Clark (left) and Tom Hamer (right).

A startup founded by Victorians that enables AI-powered search and discovery for developers has raised US$5.2 million ($8.13 million) in seed investment, as Marqo gears up to release its offering that eschews traditional keyword search in favour of machine learning models to return more accurate results.

The funding round for Marqo was led by Blackbird Ventures and also includes the support of Creator Fund, January Capital, and Cohere's co-founders Ivan Zhang and Aidan Gomez.

The funds will be used to develop a new form of vector search technology that continuously improves based on user engagement, which differentiates it from existing vector databases.

Marqo was founded by Jesse Clark, formerly lead scientist at Amazon Robotics AI and principal scientist at StitchFix and physicist at Stanford and UCL, and Tom Hamer, a former Amazon Web Services (AWS) software engineer. The team has since brought in AI, engineering, and operations expertise from Amazon, Uber and Goldman Sachs.

The company was initially incorporated by Hamer in London in April 2022, but shortly after he met Clark and they established an office in Melbourne and moved back to Australia. Melbourne is now considered the head office with the majority of Marqo's employees.

"Search is in desperate need of modernisation - the vast majority of search experiences are based on legacy keyword search systems, which provide poor results," says Hamer.

"Customers want search experiences that anticipate their needs, not just match keywords. This is especially important for businesses where the search bar is the core product, such as ecommerce. 

"By automatically improving based on user interaction, Marqo provides highly relevant results, and increases customer conversion rate, order value, and revenue."

Marqo's stated mission is to democratise AI technology allowing transformative search experiences to be built with ease.

"Despite many advantages, vector search remains challenging to implement especially for applications requiring real-time search," says Clark.

"Vector search is rapidly becoming a must have for generative AI applications. We want anyone to be able to leverage the latest machine learning models, even if they're not an expert in this field."

The technology initially targets end-user search such as e-commerce and marketplaces, but has applications in generative AI, analytics and security. The new service, currently in closed beta, allows the machine learning models to automatically learn from user engagement and continuously improve the relevance of the vectors.

"Vector search is a huge growth area. In addition to being at the core of AI search and recommendation systems - vector search has become a must have component of generative AI. Marqo is instrumental in making AI useful to businesses by enabling developers to use the best technology with little effort," says Cohere co-founder and CEO Aidan Gomez.

"There is over 100 trillion gigabytes of data in the world, the majority of which is unstructured data such as text, images or video," adds Blackbird partner Nick Crocker.

"With generative AI creating more content than ever before people, computers and companies need new ways to search. Marqo represents the next generation of search - hyper-relevant, AI-powered and based on human understanding. We are thrilled to be supporting this team," says Crocker.

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