ramaswamy neeva

File photo of Indian American executive Sridhar Ramaswamy, who left Google in 2018, speaking onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2016 at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal on May 10, 2016 in New York City. (Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

An Indian American executive who formerly led tech giant Google’s ad business has decided to give the search engine a run for its money.

Sridhar Ramaswamy, who left Google in 2018, plans to launch rival search engine Neeva with the hopes to do what Microsoft’s Bing and others failed to do: challenge Google as the top search engine.

Neeva promises to have no ads and will serve as a direct competitor to Google, according to a New York Times report.

The first major differentiator is that it will not have advertising and be subscription-supported. It will not track users and it will be personalized, according to reports.

Personalization will reportedly be accomplished without data mining. Neeva has so far raised $37.5 million and has 25 employees, the report said.

Neeva won’t reinvent the search wheel; it will sit on top of existing content and data sources: Bing search results, Apple Maps, weather.com and other data sources. Neeva will also search personal files like email and “local” documents along with the web, the report added.

According to the Times profile, Ramaswamy grew disillusioned at Google and ultimately left the company as a result.

“The relentless pressure to maintain Google’s growth, he said, had come at a heavy cost to the company’s users. Useful search results were pushed down the page to squeeze in more advertisements, and privacy was sacrificed for online tracking tools to keep tabs on what ads people were seeing,” according to the report.

Ramaswamy also told the Times that the quality and usefulness of search results on Google has been compromised by the focus on ad revenue. There are many in the industry who would agree.

But a “relentless” focus on revenue growth is an inevitable function of being a public company. “It’s a slow drift away from what is the best answer for the user and how do we surface it,” Ramaswamy explained in the report.

Neeva will initially be free and then cost “less than $10 per month,” with the ambition of lowering the price as more subscribers join.

There appears to be anecdotal evidence of meaningful pent-up demand for credible alternatives to Google — emphasis on the word “credible,” a Search Engine Land report said. 

To succeed, Neeva will have to deliver on its promise of search quality. It will also need to capture immediate attention with some novel capability or feature that is fundamentally different from Google, it said.

And it will need to build a loyal following of technology search influencers who promote it by word of mouth. Finally, it will need to clearly sell the benefits of the subscription model, which will be fundamentally challenging, the Search Engine Land report added. 

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