The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Amazon acquired Graphiq to enhance Alexa. Graphiq is a semantic search and data visualization company located in Santa Barbara, CA. The company took its current name last year and was formerly called FindtheBest.com. Graphiq’s founder and CEO is Kevin O’Connor, the former CEO of Doubleclick that sold to Google for $3.1 billion according to Crunchbase.
A Post-Acquisition Focus on Alexa
Graphiq was founded in 2009. In addition to product search tools, the company provided graph and interactive chart-making tools for media companies “such as the Los Angeles Times, Reuters and the Associated Press.” According to L.A. Times journalist Paresh Dave:
Last month, Graphiq announced that features for news publishers would no longer be available after Friday.
The question about where the company will be applying its efforts going forward now seems clear.
The previously unreported acquisition of Graphiq Inc. and its more than 100 employees has given Amazon a new Southern California outpost. It recently began looking to hire additional software developers and data associates in Santa Barbara to work on Alexa.
Why Amazon Acquired Graphiq?
The rationale for the Graphiq acquisition likely boils down to search. There are many stories about how Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana are much better at answering general knowledge questions than Alexa. A study by Stone Temple confirmed what users already knew. Alexa may have 15,000 third-party skills and 35 times more than Google’s voice apps, but it has a long way to go in search. Even when Alexa answers questions, the responses are often incomplete.
This Alexa knowledge gap isn’t particularly surprising. Google and Microsoft are two of the three top search engines in the world. The other is Baidu which has its own voice assistant ambitions, but is focusing exclusively on Mandarin language markets today. To date, Alexa has used a variety of methods, including Microsoft’s Bing, to answer questions. However, having its own search engine that is specialized for product searches and then complementing it with general knowledge search engine results could offer Alexa something unique. It could at the very least close the performance gap.