By Ben Penchas
Consumers now spend more time searching the web on mobile than they do on desktop. Additionally, smartphone owners use mobile apps much more often than the open web, on which companies like Google built their infrastructure. So what is search going to look like in the mobile world?
“The paradigm has changed and (mobile search) sort of worked for a while but now when I have 50 apps on my cellphone — I have five screens worth of apps — we need something different,” investor Vinod Khosla told the New York Times. “Whenever nobody has worked on something for a while it’s generally ripe for innovation, and the world has changed.”
Khosla Ventures is betting Rohit Satapathy MBA ‘12 has the answer. Satapathy is the founder of Relcy, a new mobile search startup based in San Francisco. Relcy has raised $9 million from Khosla Ventures and Sequoia Capital to launch its product. The company has been in stealth mode for the last two years, focused on building the mobile search experience from the ground up.
At present, the idea is to optimize for the queries people spend 90 percent of their time making: queries about movies, restaurants, events and celebrities. Searches on Relcy yield “cards” that are visually appealing and bring together information from relevant apps. Search for a restaurant, for example, and you will see a card detailing dozens of options including hours, maps and reviews from applicable apps.
Relcy has worked hard to create meaningful partnerships with other mobile apps. Many event cards, for example, link to Groupon deals. Relcy sees this partnership as a win-win: Relcy’s users get pertinent information about deals, and Groupon gets a new way for users to engage with its app.
Relcy is not the only company working to revamp the mobile search experience, however. Quixey, a Mountain-View-based startup, is taking a similar approach in terms of deep-linking cards and integration with other apps. Taptu’s first product, until the company decided to pivot in 2011, was a mobile search platform. And Everything.me offers upgraded mobile search as well.
Will Relcy become the primary way smartphone users search the web? We will have to wait and see. One thing is for certain: Search is in for an upgrade.
Contact Ben Penchas at bpenchas ‘at’ Stanford.edu.