Elasticsearch nabs $24M because search is hard, and big data makes it harder

By Richard Nieva , written on February 19, 2013

From The News Desk

Forgive me, but this post is going to start with a buzzword. There’s no way around it. There’s big data and then there’s BIG data.

Search is more powerful than ever. And with it comes a byproduct that’s obvious when you stop to think about it, but may be overlooked: The better we get at search, the more things we are able to search through. So Elasticsearch is a product built for that environment – where we stand knee-deep in data, if data were something we could stand knee-deep in.

The company makes open source enterprise search software that lets companies manage large sets of information. Today, Amsterdam-based Elasticsearch announced a $24 million Series B round led by Mike Volpi of Index Ventures, as well as from Benchmark Capital and SV Angel. This comes about four months after the company raised a $10 million Series A. Volpi will join the company’s board.

At a very basic level, the software helps companies to extract information out of large amounts of disjointed data. The software handles all the technical nuts and bolts issues of search, from infrastructure issues, to layering, to query language, says CEO Steven Schuurman. He touts it as sort of a catchall – one product to take care of everything. Normally, a different piece of software would have to tackle each element, like infrastructure, for example. And there are 10 or 15 different software choices just to tackle that one element alone, says Schuurman.

One example of functionality he gives is a project Elasticsearch did with NBC, where the two companies analyzed Tweets that were sent out during the Super Bowl. They went from sorting the data broadly in real time, to narrowing them down tighter and tighter: What states were Tweeting what? Of those, which were Tweets in California about the 49ers? Of those, which were the positive ones? Of those, which were from this certain period of time? “You can start unstructured, then slowly sprinkle on structure,” Schuurman says.

The sweet spot, other than the product’s versatility, is its scalability, he says. The software allows companies to move data clusters around easily, and scale out terabytes of data to hundreds of servers. Customers include Foursquare, Path, GitHub and SoundCloud, who use the software to power their search features. There is, of course, rival enterprise search software, including Apache Solr. While Solr is faster, some say Elasticsearch is more durable to handle complex, real-time searches.

The company will use the new funding to build out the business between the United States and Europe. Schuurman says about half of the company’s customers are on each continent. Elasticsearch will also be building headquarters in the Bay Area, though Schuurman doesn’t know yet if the company will land in San Francisco or the Valley. He is looking to fill two senior roles -- VP of sales and VP of engineering -- and the office’s location will be determined by where he finds those two people, Schuurman says.

That search will probably be simpler than the ones performed using this software.

[Image courtesy: DaveBleasdale]