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October 12, 2022

Neural Search Platform Vectara Launches with $20M Seed

Vectara, a neural network technology platform, has announced $20 million in seed funding and has also released its first product for general availability: a neural search as a service.

Many existing search engines are keyword-based and attempt to find the best match for words or phrases used as input. Neural search, however, leverages large language models to understand the intent behind a search which can give accurate results even if the keywords used are misspelled or inexact.

Vectara’s neural search as a service is generally available beginning today in two editions: Growth, which provides a free tier offering users up to 15,000 queries per month, and Scale, an enterprise-focused tier with a full set of features that the company says provides a complete search pipeline capable of running on the largest websites in the world.

Large stores of unstructured data remain untapped for many organizations, and Vectara says its platform aims to become a leading engine for unlocking insights and value from this data. To realize this goal, the company developed zero-shot AI models, or those that enable custom text classifications without requiring annotated, or structured, training datasets due to how they leverage deep learning neural networks. The platform applies deep vector encoding for all indexed content and all issued queries, according to a company blog post, enabling a true meaning-to-meaning response that retrieves relevant information based on neural-powered understanding of intent and context.

Vectara says its platform provides a complete ML search pipeline from extraction and indexing to retrieval, re-ranking, and calibration. Source: Vectara

Vectara says it is launching with a search product because it is currently the dominant way people access information by navigating applications and sites. Some organizations have difficulty implementing search functionality in their applications due to the time and expertise required. “Vectara replaces these outdated approaches with a composable, ML-based search pipeline that recognizes searchers’ intent and radically increases search relevance. Vectara’s ability to innately understand human language means that the platform sees through incorrect terminology, acronyms, or misspellings without any predefined language configuration or developer tuning,” the company said in a release.

Vectara is led by CEO Amr Awadallah, an AI scientist, co-founder of Hadoop distributor Cloudera, and former Google VP. Awadallah is joined by a team of former Google executives and engineers, including Co-Founders Amin Ahmad and Tallat Shafaat as chief technology officer and chief architect. They are supported by a team with experience at companies including Cloudera, Elastic, Splunk, MongoDB, and Hazelcast.

“We started Vectara because we saw an opportunity for neural networks to revolutionize how people find meaning through data,” said Awadallah. “Until recently, though, only the largest organizations with deep ML expertise could access this breakthrough technology. With our API-first neural search, developers and engineers can immediately start applying NLP to the challenges they face every day. I have no doubt that the future of search is unequivocally neural search.”

Vectara announced its $20 million seed round was funded by technology and search pioneers from companies including Slack, Meta, and Google, as well as technology venture funds that include Vertex Ventures, GTM Capital, and Top Harvest Capital. The seed funding will support the launch of Vectara’s initial products and the growth of its operating team.

Investor, entrepreneur, and Google VP of Product Bradley Horowitz said, “We’re at a truly historical moment where the full potential of NLP has reached the level of science-fiction. Vectara is the first platform that harnesses this transformative power and makes it practical and useful, empowering developers everywhere with the most advanced AI available. I can’t wait to see the wave of innovation and utility that Vectara will unleash.”

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