Pinecone raises $28M to revolutionize unstructured data search with AI

Pinecone raises $28M to revolutionize unstructured data search with AI

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Serverless vector database startup Pinecone Systems Inc. is repositioning itself as a search infrastructure technology provider, having just announced closing on a $28 million round of early-stage funding today.

Today’s Series A round was led by Menlo Ventures and included the participation of new investor Tiger Global and previous backers such as Wing Venture Capital, which led Pinecone’s $10 million seed funding round last year.

Pinecone reckons that in the last year, it has emerged as the leader of an entirely new generation of search technology, having seen thousands of developers adopt its service. The company has created an advanced vector database that it says can dynamically transform and index billions of high-dimensional vectors to answer queries such as the nearest neighbor search both fast and extremely accurately. Thanks to its serverless nature, customers don’t need to worry about managing computing resources or maintenance.

Pinecone’s database was inspired by in-house systems used by companies such as Amazon.com Inc. and Meta Platforms Inc. for vector-based search. It believes its platform is ideally suited to support search across multiple applications.

Edo Liberty (pictured), the company’s founder and chief executive officer, said search technology has until now has mainly been keyword-based. He argues that this is inefficient for many people’s needs today. The problem, he said, is that traditional keyword-based search struggles when searching through complex data such as unstructured text, user profiles and images. Yet this kind of data is growing fast, as are customers’ expectations. So there’s a need to modernize enterprise search systems, he believes.

“Today’s users expect more,” Liberty said. “They want search results that anticipate and understand their needs, and not just those that match keywords.”

Pinecone’s vector database enables an entirely new way to search through data. That’s because it’s focused on storing and searching through AI-generated representations of unstructured data that encapsulate the meaning of the original content in a machine-readable format.

It makes it far easier for systems to find this information when someone performs a keyword-based search. It supports dozens of types of search, including semantic text search, image retrieval and more. Therefore, Pinecone says, its vector database can provide enterprises with a complete infrastructure for AI-powered search.

Andy Thurai of Constellation Research Inc. said enterprises have struggled with searching unstructured data such as images, audio files and PDFs for a long time and that AI has the potential to solve this issue. He believes that with the emergence of companies such as Pinecone, a new standard is emerging that enables enterprises to search their unstructured data more effectively.

“Any unstructured data, such as an image, can be vectorized as an array of numbers, or an AI-generated representation of that image,” the analyst explained. “Then a vector search can be performed on a vector database that stores such information and return either the top search results of the match, or return all results above a certain threshold.”

Thurai said there are multiple possible uses cases, such as searching for an image or voice string match, or facial recognition. “This can open up the possibility for enterprises to finally be able to search the unstructured data that most are just collecting and storing at this point,” he added.

Liberty said his company is essentially changing the way that enterprises will interact with their unstructured data, and suggested that those who don’t react quickly enough could find themselves being left behind. “The importance of vectors in search applications moving forward cannot be overstated, and Pinecone has removed the huge infrastructural barrier that has prevented many companies from benefiting until now,” he said.

Liberty has managed to convince some extremely bright minds of his vision. Following today’s funding round, Menlo Ventures Partner Tim Tully, a former chief technology officer at Splunk Inc., will join Pinecone’s board of directors. Other recent additions include the former CEOs of Snowflake Inc. and Couchbase Inc., Bob Muglia and Bob Widerhold, who have joined as investors and advisers, plus former Splunk Vice President of Engineering Ram Sriharsha, who has taken the same role at Pinecone.

“Many of the largest companies in the world have already embraced the use of vector search, which has given them a distinct advantage over their competitors,” Tully said. “Pinecone is ensuring that regardless of size and budget, companies can integrate next-generation search capabilities into their applications and get to production without the need to develop and maintain an entirely new architecture.”

Pinecone said it will use its new funding to grow its product, customer success, and research and development teams and invest in core research in machine learning, information retrieval and natural language processing.

Image: Pinecone Systems

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