San Francisco-based startup Perplexity, with a valuation of $520 million, is gaining attention for its ambitious goal to rival Google's web search dominance. Backed by tech mogul Jeff Bezos, the company has secured a substantial $73.6 million in its latest Series B funding round, making it the largest sum raised by an internet search startup in recent years.
Perplexity's key product, dubbed an "answer engine," utilizes artificial intelligence, specifically OpenAI's GPT technology, to revolutionize the way people search for information online. Unlike traditional search engines, Perplexity operates as a chatbot-style interface, providing direct text responses to queries rather than a list of website links. CEO Aravind Srinivas emphasized the efficiency of this approach, stating, "If you can directly answer somebody’s question, nobody needs those 10 blue links."
The startup's website and mobile app, attracting 10 million monthly users and boasting 53 million visits in November alone, have seen rapid growth since its launch in December 2022. Notably, Perplexity has achieved this without significant investment in traditional marketing, relying on word of mouth and online buzz.
Bezos, founder of Amazon and a prominent figure in the tech industry, was among the investors in Perplexity's recent funding round. While the exact amount of his contribution remains undisclosed, the startup has now raised a total of $100 million, positioning it with a valuation of $520 million.
Perplexity's founder, Srinivas, previously worked as a research scientist at OpenAI and had a brief stint at Google as a research intern. The startup's team, comprising less than 40 members, has developed a more powerful version of its search engine using GPT-4, OpenAI's latest technology, available for a subscription fee of $20 per month.
Despite Perplexity's ambitious goals, Google executives, including former YouTube chief Susan Wojcicki and AI research-focused senior vice president Jeff Dean, have personally invested in the startup. Google, with a market cap of $1.74 trillion and a global workforce of nearly 140,000, remains a formidable competitor.
Perplexity, however, faces challenges in scaling its operations with a team of less than 50, compared to Google's vast resources and extensive language support in over 133 languages. The startup, which has yet to be listed on a stock exchange, has not disclosed plans for an IPO in the near future.
In the dynamic landscape of online search, Perplexity's innovative approach and the backing of industry giants like Bezos make it a noteworthy contender in the quest to challenge Google's search dominance.