Alibaba invests in startup building AI-powered ecommerce search

By Osman Husain for TechinAsia

Twiggle, a startup that’s trying to build better ecommerce search tech, announced today it has secured funding from Alibaba. This round for the Israel-based firm is in addition to the US$12.5 million it raised in April led by South African digital media behemoth Naspers, which is also an investor in Tencent.

It’s better suited to mobile search and voice-based search.

The startup did not disclose the amount of the second tranche but did say that the fresh funds would be used to grow its research and development team and quicken the pace of its global rollout.

Twiggle says it has developed a platform for ecommerce search based on artificial intelligence (AI). It uses knowledge graphs and natural language search systems. Its algorithm makes search more intuitive, effective, and better suited for mediums such as mobile search, voice-based search, and conversational interfaces.

The team calls it Twiggle Query Language, which has been engineered specifically for use in searching for items whilst shopping online. It gathers and categorizes information differently than other programming languages and is able to filter results for long and cumbersome search queries.

Twiggle's Amir Konigsberg (left) and Adi Avidor (right)

Twiggle’s Amir Konigsberg (left) and Adi Avidor (right)

Twiggle was founded by Dr. Amir Konigsberg and Dr. Adi Avidor, both formerly of Google and experts in search, AI, and ecommerce.

In April, Konigsberg explained the ramifications of Twiggle’s product. Rather than searching for generic descriptions of products, such as a “double door white refrigerator,” shoppers can say something like “I want a two-door fridge that doesn’t make too much noise which is also white, which is new, has great reviews, and is a good value for the money.”

Twiggle will then filter that query according to keywords and scour the internet for relevant results, not just the ecommerce store it is deployed on.

“The AI and NLP [natural language processing] technologies that we have built are able to provide a level of query understanding and interpretation that seem to be far more advanced than anything out there today and are what our customers are really interested in,” Konigsberg tells Tech in Asia.

Despite Alibaba’s investment in the firm, the startup remains tight-lipped on whether the Chinese ecommerce titan will deploy its futuristic search tech.

Twiggle says it currently has just under 20 employees, which it aims to strengthen to 40 by the end of the year. Dr. Udi Manber, head of search at Google, has joined the company’s board of directors.

First appeared at TechinAsia