In a surprising turn of events, Neeva, the startup once envisioned as a formidable competitor to Google Search, has announced its decision to shut down its search engine. The company now plans to shift its focus to artificial intelligence (AI), and it is currently in talks with Snowflake Inc. about a potential acquisition.
Neeva was co-founded by former Google executives Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan in 2019. The startup took on the ambitious task of launching an ad-free, subscription-based search engine that prioritized user privacy, a distinct alternative to Google’s ad-heavy search engine. Neeva offered a unique search experience for a monthly subscription fee of $4.95.
Despite the promising start and the unique value proposition, Neeva faced significant challenges in attracting users to its platform. The co-founders acknowledged the difficulty of not just building a search engine, but also persuading users to switch to it. This was an uphill battle, given the dominance of Google Search as the default engine on many browsers and systems, coupled with the inherent resistance of users to change their settings.
Notwithstanding these challenges, Neeva’s achievements are noteworthy. The company built a competitive search engine that, in some respects, was even ahead of Google. For instance, Neeva replaced the traditional list of blue links with a more descriptive page layout and emphasized human-generated content.
The decision to shut down the search engine comes at a time of renewed interest in alternative search engines. Many users have expressed dissatisfaction with Google’s ad-heavy results, while AI chatbots like Bard, Bing and ChatGPT are reshaping the way people interact with the internet.
Neeva’s search engine will officially cease operations on June 2. However, this is not the end for the Neeva team. They plan to explore new avenues, especially centered around large language model (LLM) technology. In fact, earlier this year in January, the company introduced the NeevaAI AI service, which provides up-to-date answers with links to sources.
In line with its commitment to user privacy, Neeva has announced that it will refund subscription fees and delete all user data after shutting down its search engine.