Fifteen miles away from where Larry Page and Sergey Brin worked out of their first office developing the technology that would become Google, a team of eleven engineers no older than 20 are hard at work on developing what they hope will be its replacement.
Their adoptive home, for the moment, is the co-working space Tim Draper set up as part of his Draper University startup program, and they’ve been assembled their by Jerry Yue, a 24-year-old serial entrepreneur.
Yue’s last startup, the Chinese food delivery service Benlai.com, raised $100 million at the end of last year and is on its way to joining the ranks of China’s unicorns.
Now, with the help of his young team of engineers (including a cadre from China’s top engineering school in Beijing), Yue has moved to the U.S. to launch Brain LLC. The company’s goal is nothing short of replacing the way in which we consume information on the Internet.
The engineers at Brain claim they have developed an advanced algorithm that serves up the most contextually relevant information to a user without the need to scour through search results.
Already the company’s technology has been answering questions on Quora for would be advice seekers with an incredible degree of accuracy, Yue said.
But that’s just the beginning. Ultimately Yue wants his technology and the algorithm that they’ve created to serve as a compliment to a users’ own brain.
“At a high level… if Google is a search engine this is an ambition engine,” Yue told me.
The young entrepreneur is looking to create a virtual assistant for each user by having users input not just a profile of who they are, but what they do, and what they want to do in the future.
By creating this profile, Brain’s brain will send the information that’s most relevant to a user as they proceed toward any of their goals — matching the information to the dataset that the user created.
Eventually, Brain wants to combine its data set with a social platform to connect users who share similar interests.
For now, the company is satisfied to have come up with a new tool that it claims anticipates its users’ needs to deliver the information that’s most relevant to them.
It’s a problem that Yue, who grew up in Xi’an in Central China but moved to the U.S. for high school and college before dropping out to pursue a career as an entrepreneur, has been pondering for a long time.
While he was building Benlai into an e-commerce powerhouse, the young entrepreneur spent his spare time tinkering with robotics and programming in much the same way he had since he was a child, Yue said.
“I’ve been working on this algorithm for more than four years,” said Yue.
In some ways, the work The Brain is doing sounds not very different from some of the now defunct tools like Zite or Prismatic that were serving up contextually relevant news. But Yue’s ambition is broader.
His company’s mission is to serve up all the contextually relevant information a user may need in any situation.
To do this he’s raised nearly $1.5 million from an influential Chinese investor.
“We are feeding one more dimension to information,” said Yue. “Right now information is flat,” he says delivering a discrete data set at a specific moment in time. What Brain aims to do is continually deliver information to help a user progress toward their goals.
Perhaps Yue puts it best himself in a recently penned blog post. “The time between a person’s need and the ability to satisfy it through the web is shrinking. The human brain and the internet are converging,” Yue wrote.
And the post continues:
Thinking “I want a cheeseburger” and getting one instantly is certainly as intuitive as it gets. But what if that cheeseburger is bad for you? What if you wanted to run the Boston marathon over the summer? What if you suffer from bad cholesterol?
If the internet knew these things about you — your past history and your longterm goals — it could systematically feed you content about lowering your cholesterol; it could devise an ideal workout regimen for the marathon. It could go beyond intuitiveness and actually serve as your intuition, providing you with revelatory content that solves your longterm problems.
By giving the Brain perspectives, you are giving it access to these longterm problems. The content it then feeds you represent real, salient solutions to these problems.
It is time for the internet to do more than satisfy the lower end of Maslow’s hierarchy; is time for it to satisfy your highest self. At The Brain, this is is our ultimate mission.