Why is Sequoia Looking Into Associative Browsing Add-on SimilarWeb?

Yahoo’s purchase of FoxyTunes for a rumored $30M legitimized the add-on play as a product strategy for Israeli startups.

I see new startups in this category almost weekly. We’re bearish on add-on plays because the “get them to download, install and use” parts are tricky – and monetizing those users is nearly impossible. In recent months, though, SimilarWeb’s name keeps popping-up and the reason may be the technology it’s spent two years building out. Sequoia Capital Israel, we’ve heard, is spending extra time looking into it and your typical add-on play doesn’t normally make their cut. So what is it about this little company?

SimilarWebOn the surface SimilarWeb is everything you’d expect from a discovery Firefox/IE add-on. Once installed it docks to either side of the browser and displays similar sites, displayed as thumbnails or as a list. Users can rate each result with a thumbs up or down, the latter removing the result all together. Users can also suggest a site by pasting-in a URL. This not only customizes the user’s own results, it also impacts global results for all users. If you don’t want to install the add-on but still want to see it in action, try SimilarSites which pretty much mimics the experience in a web app.

Or Offer, CEO, was visibly uncomfortable every time I tried prying details about their technology, but finally relented with some general explanations: The backbone of SimilarWeb’s technology is based on multiphase analysis, which in plain English means that there are several engines running in the background, analyzing websites based on different mechanics, metrics and workflows. These include: user browsing trends, user ratings, tag analysis, ecosphere analysis, semantic breakdowns, and automated background research.

The company claims to have mapped millions of sites, and adding tens of thousands daily. This means that it will always suggest other sites, regardless of whether the site the user is currently on is a popular one, or one much further down the tail.

Nothing of the above stands out particularly or sheds light as to what’s so interesting about this company. A technical due diligence may be what’s necessary to truly understand SimilarWeb’s edge. No matter how you look at it though, the company is doing what it needs to be taken seriously… It has amassed thousands of users in the three months since its launch. Dr. Yossi Vardi is an investor and they seem to have Sequoia’s attention. Must be satisfying after two year’s worth of coding under the radar.