Another Search Engine Start-Up? Actually, Yes.
Does the world really need another search engine? Aren’t Google and even Yahoo more than sufficient? Apparently there are plenty of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who think there’s room for more. Just last week Kosmix, a search start-up that builds pages on various topics, secured around $20 million in venture capital funding. So far they’ve raised $55 million to date. That figure seems particularly surprising given how poorly some search start-ups have done. While Mahalo has done okay, others like Cuil—the supposed “Google-killer”—have done abysmally bad. The reason is obvious. Most people just like using Google. So, on its face, doesn’t that make the prospect of another search start-up seem, well, ridiculous?
Not exactly. We actually think the appearance of new search engines is a good thing. Here’s why: Google and, yes, even Yahoo, need the competition. This is particularly true for Google, though, because of their position on top of the heap. The reason is simple—as soon as things start getting too good for a company, as soon as they stop feeling that sense of urgency, they get lazy. Things start to slip. Typically as a result, the overall quality of a product then declines. While that’s not necessarily a given, competition at least guarantees that a company will actually be working to stay on top.
The second reason is that the search engines we have now aren’t perfect. Until Google can actually complete a search that always has exactly what I’m looking for in the first five results, then we cheer any other start-up who’s trying to get there, or who will push Google to reach that point.