Report: Google Buying Seattle Startup Wavii to Augment Knowledge Graph

4/23/13Follow @bromano

Wavii, a Seattle startup that makes a Facebook-style feed for whatever you’re interested in, has been scooped up by Google for “more than $30 million,” according to TechCrunch, citing “a legitimate source.”

We’ve asked founder and CEO Adrian Aoun for comment and will update as appropriate.

As part of the deal, Aoun and Wavii’s two dozen employees will reportedly relocate to join Google’s Knowledge Graph team, which is building Google’s “second brain,” as my colleague Wade Roush put it in an in-depth profile of the effort last December.

If true, that’s a bit of bad news for the Seattle area.

The company’s technology—built over the course of four years, mostly in stealth mode—is an interesting mix of information extraction, natural language processing, big data, and machine learning in support of what Aoun described as “a navigational layer on top of content.”

As I wrote last November:

To create that Facebook feed for the world’s events, Wavii had to find a way to replicate the work that a billion Facebook users do today almost by rote. Those feeds of your friends’ comings and goings, affinities, moods, pictures and so on are all based on manual entry of structured data, augmented with context such as maps, related pictures, and other information from Facebook’s vast and expanding database. This is perhaps easily forgotten as updating Facebook—entering that data—has become a part of the daily routine.

Wavii’s system—which lives on Amazon Web Services; Wavii claims not to own a single server or desktop computer—crawls the “real-time Web,” meaning “news articles, blog posts, Tweets, videos, anything we can get our hands on the second it’s coming online,” Aoun explains. It harvests from that mass of content the information needed to create news feeds. These amount to quick summaries of events with the salient details illuminated for easiest consumption. It frees users, Aoun argues, from a world where we’re “still stuck… reading news articles to consume everything”.

Wavii investors, meanwhile, appear to be in line for a decent, if not spectacular, return. As we reported in November, the company had raised “upwards of $10 million” from the likes of Lotus founder Mitch Kapor, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, Shawn Fanning of Napster, Keith Rabois, Ron Conway, Dave Morin, and Crunch Fund. Aoun would not comment on the details of the company’s funding at the time, nor did the company try to correct the $10 million figure, which was provided in a PR pitch. TechCrunch says Wavii had raised $2 million.

TechCrunch also reports that Apple was also looking at Wavii.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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