Richard Socher, the founder of You.com, is aware that his company has always been a David battling Google and, to a lesser extent, Microsoft, the search giants. He likes to point out that his company built generative AI-based search in December, several months before the other big players in the search industry announced their plans.
The company is announcing today that it will use multimodal search to build on that lead. This indicates that it can include additional elements in addition to text to assist in providing a more precise response to a question. Therefore, if you ask the question, “Which company has the most CRM market share?” and follow it up with, “What is Saleforce’s stock price?” you will receive the response, “Salesforce.” A stock chart rather than a text-based response will be provided.
Socher says that’s a big leap forward for chat-based search, and puts his company ahead of his much larger competitors. “Instead of making up a bunch of numbers, which every other language model would do, we’ll just show you our stock app right there inside the conversation,” Socher told TechCrunch.
He thinks that’s a much better way to respond to that kind of question, and these different modalities can also be used to answer other questions, depending on the situation. Getting large language models to be multimodal in the sense that the various modalities are not only text but also code, tables, graphs, images, and interactive elements is a significant advancement, and sometimes that is the best way to answer your question. He stated, “I truly believe that this is a better way than any text could be to represent the answer to this question.”
You.com went live at the end of 2020 in the hope that more AI-based search engines would emerge. That is a concept that the search market has adopted, but Socher sees room for a novel strategy that the incumbents are unable to provide.
At the time of his company’s $25 million funding round last summer, he told TechCrunch that he wants You.com to be the anti-Google. Google is a monolithic, monopolistic search engine that is closed and has ultimately weaponized AI against users for the sake of serving its true purpose: advertising. We are building You.com as a search platform that is open and emphasizes directly serving user needs with You.com apps instead of bombarding people with ads.”
Socher says that at some point he will reveal the secret sauce he is using to build his company’s search solution. At this point, he is reluctant to discuss the technology behind his company’s search because he is concerned that his competitors will be able to use it against him.
“We don’t really share right now how we built it. I know a lot of people are super curious about how we are building all this stuff. But a lot of people are trying to copy what we’re doing. And it just doesn’t really make sense until we’re at least default live or profitable as a startup to share all our technology, or even high level or details on how we’re doing any of it,” he said.
He claims that the business is expanding at a rate of double digits each month and that millions of people use the website each day. They are still thinking about how to make money, but it won’t be like Bing or Google.
“We don’t have to make $500 million a day. We don’t have that pressure right now as a startup. But we will think about monetization this year, and we’ll try to explore different paths,” he said. This includes private ads, subscriptions to various add-ons like the one they offer, which helps users write essays and blog posts for a couple of dollars a week, and the possibility of opening the platform for the development of third-party applications like the stock app, which shows a stock chart.
“You can allow that third-party app to just sell a service, and when that’s relevant to the user, and the user wants to buy whatever that company sells, then we get a cut of that. So it’s sort of monetizing the end of the funnel rather than the beginning of the funnel, which is what ads do,” he said.
Although he is aware that he faces formidable opposition, he is convinced that You.com has distinguished itself from the competition.
“It’s certainly a tough space to compete in, for sure, and you need to build something that is both unique and different, but at the same time good enough to capture most of the things that people currently want from their search engine,” he said.
“And that’s what we’ve done, and it’s part of why we’re able to grow now and provide a fresh new perspective on what a search engine can or should be able to help you with.”