Quixey Raises $50M From Alibaba & Others To Build The Search Engine For The Mobile Era

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Mobile app search engine Quixey, which has built a search engine to tackle app discovery by allowing consumers to find apps by searching for the kind of functionality they’re looking for, has closed a $50 million Series C funding round, led by Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba Group.

Others participating in the round include new investor GGV Capital, and existing investors Innovation Endeavors, TransLink Capital and U.S. Venture Partners in the U.S., as well as Atlantic Bridge in London and Dublin and WI Harper in Beijing.  The new funding round brings Quixey’s total raised to-date to $74.2 million.

Quixey, which powers app search for a number of companies, including Sprint, Ask.com, browser makers, and OEMs, told TechCrunch it is now fielding more than 100 million queries per month. But its ambitions  go beyond pure-play app discovery to app content discovery.

“We think our company’s mission is to get people into apps, which doesn’t just mean finding you a new app, it means we should be able to find you the content within apps,” said Quixey co-founder and CEO Tomer Kagan.  An example use-case could be a user searching for Thai food — and being returned results across apps, as well as things like Yelp reviews and a current Groupon deal for a restaurant, for instance.

quixey SERP

Kagan is not keen on Quixey being compared to Google — i.e. as a ‘Google for apps’ — arguing that Google’s openness in the mobile space is questionable. “I don’t really think of it as this free, open [platform], I think of it as ‘how can we start owning users’,” he said. “In the mobile space, apps haven’t been given the opportunity to shine and reach users on an equal footing, Quixey wants to change that.”

Asked if it plans to launch a more consumer-facing search service, with the help of its new funding round, Kagan told TechCrunch: “We definitely have something pretty major in that realm coming out in a few weeks.”

One possibility is an Android app that will allow Quixey’s app search to get baked in directly into the OS of the device. “Android is best place to start doing something unique and different because of the flexibility of the operating system,” he said. “We want to go deeper into the apps — something that Android lets us do. That’s the whole point of why we raised this money — so that we can explore that…how can we find the best answer inside of the apps.”

Quixey has already started exploring how it can help surface content within apps. In August, it launched a developer-focused initiative dubbed “AppURL” which proposes a way to make mobile apps work more like the web, instead of the standalone silos they are today.

The funding will also be funnelled into ramping up its 80-strong headcount. Kagan said it’s looking to expand its engineering team to ‘double down on search’, and is casting its net pretty wide in the search for talent, looking to Europe, India and Israel — as it gears up to expand internationally and build local presences in new regions.

Alibaba’s interest in Quixey isn’t surprising when you consider it’s been working to strengthen its hand in mobile, with the need to adapt its traditional ecommerce platform for a mobile-obsessed age. However Kagan said there’s no strategic deal in place as a result of the investment.

“The way we view developers is how they view ecommerce. They believe in being sort of a flat platform for ecommerce. They don’t charge a listing fee, they don’t have their own warehouses, they don’t believe in competing with the inventory of their stores — they really believe in providing the easiest and most supportive way of allowing commerce to happen. That really drew us to them,” he added.

Commenting on the funding in a statement, Jeff Richards, Partner at GGV Capital, added: “Consumer adoption of smartphone devices and applications across the Android and iOS ecosystems is changing the game on a global basis. The Quixey team has an incredible vision for the role that search will play in the mobile ecosystem, and we are thrilled to be part of such a dynamic company.”

Quixey also recently launched a sponsored ads feature — similar in function to Google Adwords — to start producing revenue. Kagan said around 100 companies have signed up so far, with developers ranging in size from five person teams to Zynga.