Constant connectivity and instant access to information can be exhausting byproducts of our internet-native existence. Even the utility of search engines, designed to index the internet, are flagging in the face of too much data.
Google became ubiquitous due to its unique ability to organize the world’s information. Now, every product is trying to help its users find relevant information.
Emerging forms of search expose new avenues for curation and for interacting with information. In this essay, we explore 5 exciting mediums for search and curation, and highlight some of the companies building in each vertical.
🕸 Physical Curation
These companies shrink the gap between our physical and digital spaces, empowering native discovery by exploring adjacencies.
- Canal offers users the ability to organically discover related products while on a brand’s website. For example, while shopping for coffee, companies can discover kettles and thermoses designed by a complementary brand. Read more about Canal here.
- Minoan believes short-term rentals provide the perfect product discovery platform. The company offers “shoppable properties” by working with brands and real estate partners to showcase products and streamline consumer purchases.
- Foxtrot is a trendy, brick-and-mortar bodega stocked with an inventory of D2C brands. Read more in TechCrunch.
🎞 Visual Curation
These tools unlock efficiency and creativity by pulling together tools and information. They help users understand and connect information by allowing them to view it on a new plane.
- 🌟 Pager makes screenshots “smart” - enriching and curating them to allow users to derive additional utility from their digital snapshots. Pager is turning screenshots into the next major discovery format on the internet.
- 📸 I recently invested in Pager - you can read more about it here.
- Soot is a visual file system for creative work. The company’s goal is to “rethink personal computing and help creative work break free of the flat world of the filing system.”
- Nomic makes maps of data and provides tools that offer an understanding of how models represent data.
🧺 Human Curation
I loved the way Kyle Harrison broke down the content stack in early-stage investing (see below). Many of the people and platforms he lists rely on significant human curation to collect and structure information, enabling users to connect ideas, derive insights, and perform due diligence.
From Open Source Knowledge by Kyle Harrison:
Mario Gabriele and Packy McCormick are the bards of company building and investing.
Tegus is the commentary.
Temporal curation displays content or connects tools in sequence to extend flow state and enhance productivity.
- Re:Collect understands the information people are consuming, then connects and surfaces it at the appropriate time, allowing users to stay in creative flow.
- Zapier connects a company’s SaaS tools, triggering functions and enabling automations without human intervention. Read more here.
👩🏽🎨 Vertical-Specific Curation
Algorithmic curation is how most major search engines and social media platforms distill information into relevant search results for their users. Such platforms take a user’s behavior data (clicks, likes, hashtags, friends, people they follow) and return results that are most relevant to this user based on their preferences. There is an emerging category of vertical-specific search engines that use a combination of algorithms, people, and expert knowledge to curate.
- Diem is building a community-curated search engine for women. The company found that a large number of Google queries relate to the female experience, and women spend large amounts of time crowdsourcing information (which is scattered across notes apps, screenshots) and loses value quickly.
- Hello is a search engine for software developers. It instantly answers developers’ technical questions with simple explanations and relevant code snippets from the web. It is powered by large language models (LLMs).
- Glean is unifying enterprise applications by providing a powerful search experience for companies. Glean connects to and indexes a company’s SaaS applications, providing a knowledge management layer for the organization.
- Hebbiais a search engine for knowledge workers that eschews keyword search in favor of neural network-based search, enabling more nuanced search results. Hebbia partners with institutions and governments and leverages a database of private internal papers and texts.
Curation of objects and knowledge will help us unlock the promise of the digital age by making the right information accessible at the right time. This is an exciting frontier being driven rapidly forward by advances in language and image models, creativity, and a desire for technology-native tools.
Intersectionality is an important driving factor. It isn’t enough to build a general solution. To catch on, a product must marry specific knowledge and insights with a meaningful inflection in core technology.
Further Reading: Entering the Era of Intelligent Search, by Bessemer Venture Partners