Since shelling out nearly $10bn in a year and a half to reinvent itself as an online contender, Microsoft, on July 1, confirmed reports of its purchase of online search and natural language vendor Powerset. Microsoft aims to add Powerset’s Web search linguists, engineers and technology to its Live Search division. On the heels of its $1.2bn purchase of enterprise text analytics giant FAST Search and Transfer in January, Microsoft inked this much smaller deal to enhance its consumer Web search.
Founded in 2006, Powerset released its Web search technology earlier this year. In partnership with Xerox’s PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), the San Francisco startup, which has raised some $12.5m in funding, has been developing search software that reads online text and discerns semantics as well syntax. So far, Powerset’s semantic technology has been publicly tested only on Wikipedia and fellow open source encyclopedia Freebase, both of which have a solid structure that Powerset leverages. The company has also been in talks with major publishing companies about an ad-supported service it has in the works.
With Powerset having been sold to an established technology company to realize its plans, we wonder what that will mean for the rest of the semantic technology companies. Currently, the poster child of the market is Radar Networks, which is backed by $18m in VC. It is developing a semantic social networking application, Twine, which is still in private beta and due to be released this fall. There’s also New York-based semantic search engine Hakia, also in private beta, which has landed over $20m in funding. However, if Powerset, which was often referred to as ‘the next Google,’ got picked up for just $100m (as the rumors have it), then what’s the exit picture for the two remaining rivals, both of which have raised more money than Powerset? Maybe we need to Google the answer.
Selected Microsoft search acquisitions
Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase