Indix Raises $8.5M, Wants to Enable “Product-Aware Apps”
Indix, the startup based in Seattle and Chennai, India, compiling a comprehensive database of product information, is raising $9 million in additional funding to sell its services and advance what co-founder and CEO Sanjay Parthasarathy calls a new category of “product-aware apps.”
The company has closed $8.5 million of this Series A-1 round, led by existing investors Avalon Ventures and Nexus Venture Partners. Indix has raised about $14.4 million since its 2010 founding.
At the core of Indix’ product is a database of product attributes, pricing, availability, and other information gathered by a custom search engine. That catalog, covering everything imaginable from toothpaste to electronics, informs the company’s product intelligence platform, which it began selling last fall. It’s meant to help brands and retailers decide things like what merchandise to carry and where to carry it, how to price it relative to the competition, and how to promote it most effectively.
Indix has attracted “quite a few customers” for its main offering, Parthasarathy says, including Microsoft, which is using it to compare pricing in its own store to that of the broad network of third-party sellers and distributors that also move its software and hardware. (Parthasarathy spent 19 years at Microsoft, most recently as head of its startup accelerator program, before leaving to start one himself.)
Indix also allows third-parties to tap into its product catalog through an application programming interface (API).
“We’ve realized that people are using our product—our API—in lots of ways that we didn’t actually contemplate,” Parthasarathy says.
Over the last six months, customers have started building “product-aware apps” that integrate Indix’ catalog. Parthasarathy compares this category to location-aware apps enabled by services such as Google Maps, or people-aware apps that draw on information from Facebook.
Indix customers are currently building these product-aware apps for their own internal use, he says, adding that he can’t name the customers publicly.
Parthasarathy says it’s easy to imagine consumer-facing apps that incorporate this product awareness. The system could, for example, help someone creating a personal belongings inventory determine what their stuff is worth and select an appropriate amount of insurance. Or it could add pricing and availability information to Pinterest pages where people share favorite products.
“That’s a scenario that a lot of people are experimenting with,” he says. “The bridge there is that depth of information. Being able to recognize the product, that’s the hard challenge.”
Parthasarathy sees Indix unlocking a world of “pervasive commerce”—the idea that you can easily get information and buy nearly any product you encounter online or in the real world, and do so whenever and wherever you want. This requires technology including the always-on mobile Internet access we increasingly take for granted, and sophisticated inventory and supply-chain management systems. Parthasarathy says Indix is another component necessary for this vision to become a reality.
“You really needed a catalog of hundreds of millions of products, and you had to structure it in such a way so you’d understand what those products are, what their attributes are, their price, how they’re distributed, and so on,” he says. “That structuring is just now coming into place. That’s what we’re doing.”
Indix now has about 50 employees, about 10 of whom work in Seattle where the company’s sales, marketing, business development, and product management functions are based. The core engineering work is done in India, but Parthasarathy says that as Indix grows its research and development effort with this new funding, it is looking at adding engineers here, too.