Blackbird doubles down on ex Amazon duo in $19.4 million Series A for vector search

- February 14, 2024 2 MIN READ
Marqo cofounders
Marqo cofounders Jesse Clark and Tom Hamer
A vector search startup for ecommerce, founded by a former Amazon robotics scientist and engineer, has raised US$12.5 million (A$19.4m) in a Series A, just six months after banking A$8.1m in a Seed round.

The fresh raise for Marqo, was led by Lightspeed, with support from Blackbird, January Capital, and Chronosphere founder and CTO Rob Skillington.

Last August, Blackbird led the US$5.2m Seed round into the Melbourne startup, taking the total banked to US$17.8m (A$27.5). The funding will be used to build the platform’s customer base and relocate its HQ to San Francisco.

Marqo was cofounded by Jesse Clark, a former lead scientist at Amazon Robotics AI and scientist at Nasdaq-listed StitchFix, and ex-AWS software engineer Tom Hamer.

They’ve built a vector search platform for ecommerce customers, including Redbubble and Temple & Webster, with machine learning capabilities to deploy the next generation of AI-powered search.

Unstructured data is estimated to make up more than 80% of all enterprise data, making it the world’s biggest untapped information resource. Marqo solves that problem, unlocking the value in unstructured data across business critical applications such as end-user search, retrieval-augmented generation, and more.

Hamer, the CEO, said they recognised that vector search was going to be instrumental in realising the full potential of AI.

“But it is far too complicated for developers and enterprises to deploy,” he said.

 “We saw a need to invent a platform that not only generated superior vector embeddings but also empowered customers to build advanced search experiences within minutes, not months. This funding is validation of our approach and will help us scale up to meet the tremendous demand we’re seeing.”

Hamer is relocating to San Francisco in the wake of the raise to work alongside Brett Umberg, the former VP of sales at RudderStack, who has joined Marqo as head of sales. The company will maintain its presence in London and Melbourne.

The Marqo platform handles the entire process from embedding generation to storage and retrieval, enabling multimodal, multilingual search through a single API. The startup offers open source access to its core code for developers as well as a fully managed cloud service.

Cofounder and CTO Jesse Clark said mastering unstructured data will be the key to success in the AI race.

“Our platform transforms this challenge into an opportunity, creating vector embeddings that deliver intuitive and accurate search results with human-like understanding,” he said.

“It opens up tremendous possibilities for the future of search, smarter LLMs, and much more.”

Investor Hemant Mohapatra, a partner at Lightspeed, called Marqo’s early growth “phenomenal”

“The world of search is fast moving from ‘keyword-based’ to ‘natural language-based’ thanks to wide adoption of products such as ChatGPT,” he said.

“Marqo’s mission is to bring this transformational technology to every company in the world through a simple developer API and an enterprise-grade platform offered on-prem and on cloud.