It Will Take “Act Of God” For Relcy To Win In Mobile Search
Last week TechCrunch profiled a “stealth” startup called Relcy, which is seeking to build a “native” search engine for mobile. The post mentions the company has raised $9 million in funding so far.
In an interview with the site, founder Rohit Satapathy says his company is developing a “PageRank” style approach to mobile search but fully indexing in-app content. Apparently it goes beyond app-based content and will also provide additional relevant results from a knowledge-graph style index of “entities.” Satapathy told the TechCrunch writer that Relcy will offer a mobile search experience “that is a significant upgrade to anything on the market today.”
The thought (or conceit) appears to be: just as Google was a relatively late search entrant and went on to “solve” search on the PC, Relcy can do this same thing in mobile and app search by designing the experience for mobile devices “from the ground up.”
The site/app isn’t live so this is all pure hearsay and speculation at this point. However I’m quite skeptical of the outlook for success.
There have been numerous search engines on the PC to take on Google since Google arrived. Among the more notable failures are Powerset and Cuil, both of which had raised significant capital.
In mobile Quixey has gone farther than others in trying to provide a better “native” mobile search experience that indexes app content. However Quixey has relatively low awareness and the company is largely taking a white-label approach for that reason.
Other mobile search competitors had to rebrand or pivot after finding that they couldn’t gain traction as mobile “search engines” and compete head on with Google. Two such examples were DoAT (now Everything.me) and Taptu, which became a “social news aggregator” before it was eventually sold to a company called Mediafed. Anticipatory or predictive search provider Expect Labs is also out there but taking similar white label approach, providing its technology to third parties for their apps and sites.
Google has announced that it’s fully indexing Android app content and has numerous “existential” incentives to continue to adapt mobile search for a “mobile first” user base. The company’s recent Q2 earnings reflect a company under pressure to deliver more revenue from mobile search (but see this push-back story from SEL’s Ginny Marvin).
Regardless of whether Google has a “mobile advertising problem,” the company has formidable brand strength, money, technology resources and simply too many incentives to succeed in mobile. For all these reasons it will be tough to disrupt Google. Apps are doing that to some degree but when it comes to mobile search Google is the undisputed global leader — by huge margins.
On top of this, Google owns the world’s most pervasive OS in Android. Microsoft and Yahoo themselves face extreme odds in trying to compete with Google in mobile search. Obviously the play here is for Relcy to develop a viable product and to be acquired by a larger company, as PowerSet was by Microsoft.
I’ll step back and say “never say never” and nobody knows precisely what the future holds (etc.). However given the history of “mobile search” so far and what we’ve already seen from competitive efforts, it will take something radically better from Relcy to have a fighting chance of competing with Google in mobile search.