Amazon Acquisitions

Amazon Acquires Startup Graphiq To Help Improve Alexa

Amazon has acquired Graphiq, Inc., a data analysis and search engine startup, to help improve its Alexa virtual assistant and other services.

The Los Angeles Times reported the news, citing four sources familiar with the deal but unauthorized to discuss it. While one source suggested the deal was worth at least tens of millions of dollars, another estimated its value at $50 million. Amazon and Graphiq declined to comment.

The acquisition of the Santa Barbara-based company and its more than 100 employees has given Amazon a new Southern California location. It recently began looking to hire additional software developers and data associates in the area to work on Alexa.

Founded in 2009 as FindTheBest, Graphiq aimed to collect and organize details about products, places and people to simplify online research. The company later introduced features to tailor comparisons around individual preferences, as well as launched websites and apps focused on specific topics — like technology, genealogy, real estate and government data — which draw millions of monthly readers.

The company had raised approximately $32 million in private financing, with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Pritzker Group Venture Capital as its biggest venture capital backers. Montgomery & Co. and Silicon Valley Bank also provided funding.

Sources said Graphiq drew interest from Google and IBM before settling on an agreement with Amazon.

The technology Graphiq has developed could be valuable as Amazon looks to make Alexa smarter, aiming to move the virtual assistant beyond answering simple queries about the weather, sports and other topics on devices such as Amazon’s Echo speaker.

Last year, Graphiq produced a now-unavailable Alexa app geared toward answering questions such as “What is the fastest 2016 sedan?” Amazon also gave Graphiq access to a books-related database to put its technology to the test, according to a source.

Graphiq’s chief executive officer Kevin O’Connor told Inc. magazine last fall that “people [were] going to realize” Graphiq’s technology is “extraordinarily strategic.”

“You can see it happening with the Amazon Echo, Siri, Google Now,” he said. “Rather than making people think like computers, we’re making computers think like people.”

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