It is difficult to convince users to switch between search engines. This is one reason why public search startups rarely succeed. Another is that it is expensive to index a large number of websites (Google has an extension estimated tens of billions of pages indexed), but one company powered by Y Combinator, and meUndeterred – Go ahead and build an AI assistant that provides answers instead of links when searching online.
Andi was founded by Angela Hoover, who has recorded for YC’s Startup School After dropping out of college and joining YC’s Winter 2022 class. After working overseas in construction and with Microsoft as the data center project lead, Hoover met Andi’s co-founder, Jed White, at Denver Airport upon her return to the United States.
Hoover and White—who had a background in artificial intelligence and search, specifically content quality ranking, querying, and rankings—talked about how bad web searches are for things like travel and what it takes to build a new type of search engine from scratch.
“Gen-Z hates Google. For us, search is down. We live on our phones in messaging apps with visual feeds like TikTok and Instagram,” Hoover told TechCrunch in an email interview. He confessed as much. “I hear my friends constantly saying that Google is bad. Search results are overwhelmed with ads, SEO spam and clutter. Gen-Z is so desperate for an alternative that we use TikTok as a search engine. We hate creepy, invasive ads, and how Google is the big brother She watches everything.”
Hoover offers Andi’s AI-powered assistant as an alternative. The general-purpose system attempts to find and extract answers to questions, combining large language models similar to OpenAI’s GPT-3 with live web data.
Behind the scenes, Andi extracts information from web results categorized as it relates to the question at hand as well as overall quality (although it’s not clear how Andi defines “quality”). Depending on the topic, the platform uses different artificial intelligence systems tailored to specific sectors (such as real-world knowledge, programming or consumer health) and language models that generate answers by combining knowledge across multiple sources (such as Wolfram Alpha, Forbes, The New York Times, etc. .).
It’s one step further from Google Featured Excerptswhich pulls text from web pages to answer common questions, and is akin to so-called “cognitive search” engines like Amazon Kendra and Microsoft SharePoint Syntex that relies on knowledge bases to bring answers together. Like startups amicablykage and You.com You can also take advantage of artificial intelligence to return specific content from the web in response to queries instead of direct result listings.
So what sets Andi apart from the rest? Unlike some of its competitors, Hoover claims that it does not charge a fee for its services and does not log personally identifiable information. Andi also does not record and store searches or results that people have read or clicked on, just using approximate location data to improve the relevance of search results.
“Even as we add the option to user accounts in the future, we will only collect and store enough data to help our customers use the service effectively, when they want to create an account or remember them between devices and sessions, and to improve the service,” Hoover said. research, and they’ve asked us to let them use it with their team and their personal data…As we improve question-answer technology and add support for connecting to private data sources, we think this has huge potential.”
To filter out information that could be misleading — or clearly incorrect — Hoover says Andi uses techniques including block lists and ranking metrics. Disinformation is an evolving issue, of course — one from Google itself has resist with. But Hoover expressed confidence in the technical steps Andi had taken to mitigate the impact.
She emphasized that “every other new search company is making another weaker version of Google with the same crowded page of blue links targeting the web browser, with more or less variance in advertising and privacy practices.” The content you see in it [Andi’s] Results are retrieved directly from the source where possible, rather than from an old index. The answer to the question is improving rapidly, and it is already excellent in many areas.”
In a quick experiment, I entered a couple of controversial queries to Andi and found that the search engine handled them very subtly, constantly referring to factual sources. Search for “Who actually won the 2020 elections?” It yielded the answer “Joe Biden,” while the query “Are the COVID-19 vaccines fake?” Pulled an article from Forbes magazine debunking epidemic conspiracy theories.
Hoover says Andi is still in alpha and intends to stay light while iterating based on feedback from early users. The startup will have to make tough decisions. KNew Yorker NotesSearch algorithms are subject to various biases, for example only prioritizing websites that use modern web technologies. It also opens the door to the bad stuff. In 2020, Pinterest take advantage From Google’s image search algorithm to display more of its content in Google Image searches.
While grappling with these issues, Andi’s team continues to analyze its business model. While the basic service will remain free, Hoover says Andi will eventually offer paid professional and business plans with premium features and API access, allowing customers to use Andi’s capabilities to search and answer questions with paid content, personal data, and internal company and team data.
Paid features are probably the right way to go, considering that Google’s share of the global search market has remained steady at more than 90% for most of the past decade. Bing tracks 3.4%, followed by Yahoo! (Full disclosure: parent company TechCrunch) with 1.34%, according to to Statcounter.
To fund the development of these features and potential partnerships with alternative search engines, Andi recently raised $2.5 million, including support from YC, Gaingels, GoodWater Capital, K20 Fund, Acacia Venture Capital Partners, Fepo Capital, and BBQ Capital, as well as a small family and friends round. .
“We’ve kept the burn rate low, and worked as digital nomads outside Mexico to expand our runway, and stay frugal. Even after adding AI developers and increasing our model training costs, we have more than two years of runway,” Hoover said. Our generative toolkit to answer complex questions, the “vertical lookups and APIs” technology Andi uses to integrate large language models with live data, notably: AI model development and training, adding more AI developers to our team, hosting and inference costs when We start ramping up usage as soon as we get close to the product’s market fit… At this early stage, we’re focused on doing really great research that our users love, before generating revenue. “
Andi does not collect detailed metrics, but Hoover estimates that the search engine has about 5,000 users at the moment. Andi plans to add a full-time AI developer before the end of the year, which will bring the total number of its employees to three, including Hoover and White.