Once touted as a competitor to Google Search, Neeva announced Saturday that it is shutting down its search engine. Co-founders Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan who helped turn Google into an ad giant were behind the search engine.
In a blog post announcing the shutdown, Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan wrote that “convincing users to pay for a better experience was actually a less difficult problem compared to getting them to try a new search engine in the first place.” They said that acquiring new users alongside a “different economic environment” has made it hard to keep the business up and running.
When Neeva was launched during the pandemic, it was seen as a promising competitor to Google Search. Two long-time Google executives pitched Neeva as an ad-free, privacy-focused search engine. For the first three months, the search engine was free to use but users had to pay $4.95 thereafter.
“We’ve discovered that it is one thing to build a search engine, and an entirely different thing to convince regular users of the need to switch to a better choice,” Raghunathan said in a blog post Saturday. “From the unnecessary friction required to change default search settings, to the challenges in helping people understand the difference between a search engine and a browser, acquiring users has been really hard.”
Ramaswamy started Neeva in 2019 after leaving Google, where he was heading the company’s ad business. At the time of the launch, he said Google was too focused on maintaining growth over user experience.
Neeva is shutting down at a time when the core search engine market is upside down due to the rollout of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the large language chatbot that took the public by storm last year. Since then, both Microsoft and Google have added Generative AI into their core products. Bard, Google’s answer to ChatGPT, which saw its global launch last week, is a conversational AI chatbot capable of answering human-like responses.
Going forward, Neeva will be using cases for generative AI and large language models in search going forward, according to the blog post.
Neeva.com and its consumer search product will shut down over the next few weeks. The company said it will be refunding users for the unused portion of their Neeva subscriptions, and deleting all user data. “We are truly grateful to our community,” the co-founders wrote, “and we are truly sorry that we aren’t able to continue to provide the search engine that you want and deserve.”