With $5 Million In Their Pockets, Ness Has Quietly Built A Subjective Search Engine

For the past 18 months, Ness Computing has been very quietly working on some new technology that they believe will be the next big thing in search. It’s a new, highly personalized search engine that they hope to launch in the coming weeks. But first, they’re happy to announce they’ve been given $5 million in funding to fulfill this vision.

Vinod Khosla and Ramy Adeeb of Khosla Ventures led the Series A round, with participation from Alsop Louie Partners, TomorrowVentures, Bullpen Capital, a co-founder of Palantir Technologies, and some angel investors. The Alsop-incubated company is sometimes described as the “Palantir for fun,” Ness CEO and co-founder Corey Reese says.

“If you use search products today there’s plenty of things for solving objective inquiries. But what about things that are more subjective?,” Reese says. “What about, ‘what’s best for me?’. Is there a concert this weekend that I should go to?,” he continues. What Ness is building will attempt to answer these inquires.

He notes that over the past 18 months, they’ve pulled together a team of 15 to work on this. Part of it has involved building what is essentially a recommendation engine that uses machine learning when looking at social data from Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla, and other places. The other part is the actual search engine to serve up useful results based on these signals.

Reese calls this combination their “Likeness Engine”. This name comes from both your “liking” of things online, and your digital “likeness”. In fact, this is where the “Ness” in their name also comes from. With the Likeness Engine in mind, Ness secured the likeness.com domain, where you can sign up now to learn more about the company when they’re ready to talk a bit more.

“Google did a great job organizing the world’s data, but we’re about organizing opportunities,” Reese says. He notes that they’re in a much better position to do this than someone like Google because there are so many different social signals out there, and politics prevents Google from access all of them (like some Facebook data, for example). Because they’re independent, when a new service, like Google+ emerges, Ness can quickly add that data to their mix, Reese notes.

Further, Ness’ first product will focus on the mobile space.