Why former Salesforce engineers want to take on Google

Richard Socher wants to build a “new entryway to the internet.”

You.com CEO Richard Socher

"People don't have any control over their information diet. You have basically AI manipulating you, trying to get you to spend as much time on a site until you click on an ad. And that's not ideal."

Photo: You.com

Former Salesforce scientists Richard Socher and Bryan McCann wanted to make a better search engine than Google. Though their search engine is open to all, they’ve found their new product particularly popular with developers.

Socher and McCann created You.com, a privacy-focused search engine that’s completely customizable. Marc Benioff, who backs the company and also gave the duo its domain name, called You.com "the future of search." Since launching in public beta in November 2021, Socher said it’s amassed “several hundreds of thousands” of searches and a 50% retention rate of its user base.

On Thursday, the company announced a $25 million series A funding round backed by Benioff’s Time Ventures, Breyer Capital, Norwest Venture Partners and Day One Ventures. The company also announced the launch of YouCode, a platform that auto-generates code using AI and aggregates code snippets from more than 20 of the most commonly used developer tools.

Protocol sat down with Socher to learn why competition in the search engine space matters.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

What would make somebody want to use You.com? What's your pitch to the internet layman?

It's definitely easier to pitch if you really care about search, because we save you so much time. If you're a developer, for instance, we just save you time, sorting out code snippets and having it auto-complete things for you. If all you search are things like weather, or how to get from A to B, honestly, like, there is not a big difference, other than that you have much better privacy and your data is not being sold. When you actually use search for more than just the weather, it gets more interesting. You have control over your information diet by selecting the kind of sources that you'd like to see.

What were you doing before you started You.com?

I’m originally from Germany and came to the U.S. for my Ph.D. at Stanford in computer science, then started a company called MetaMind. We got acquired by Salesforce where I became chief scientist and eventually executive vice president running most of the AI groups, and then started You.com.

Does your background at Salesforce play into your work at You.com?

I've learned a lot at Salesforce about better management from people. It was really amazing to see some incredible executives like Marc Benioff, Brett Taylor and Mark Hawkins. They had this great phrase, “better, better, never done,” which kind of stuck with me. I would like to think that, compared to my first startup, I'm making a lot fewer of those management mistakes. It's a skill that takes time to develop. But just having seen a powerful growth machine and good management definitely has influenced me as a person, manager and CEO.

Image: You.com

What was the idea behind You.com?

We really think that the world needs a better search engine. We kind of have a situation where the entire economy is moving online, and to have a single gatekeeper that wants to sell you to the highest bidding advertiser, and that can't be the right setup.

People don't have any control over their information diet. You have basically AI manipulating you, trying to get you to spend as much time on a site until you click on an ad. And that's not ideal.

Why do you think it’s important to challenge established search engines like Google?

A lot of people complain about [Google’s] privacy, they complain about relevance, they complain about the SEO and microsites that are all just ads, but they don't know that there is an alternative that they can actually use.

In Europe, which I think is ahead of the U.S. when it comes to antitrust, they realized that maybe users should have a choice screen. And at least users realize there is a choice in your search engine. You can use the same operating system and browser, but you can use different search engines.

What is You.com’s business model?

Currently, we're just using money. In the future, we will explore private advertisements, similar to DuckDuckGo, where you have advertisements that are only dependent on the query, not on the user. The advertisers don't know what you're actually searching.

Where I'm personally much more excited is actually in the apps that we have. You.com thinks about search not as a closed ecosystem. We plan to open up our platform so that anyone can contribute apps, and the users actually have real control over those applications. Some of these apps may actually be so useful people will probably pay money for them.

You announced a pretty big funding round. What do you plan to do?

The biggest goal is to improve YouCode, and then also open up this platform. I think right now, a lot of people can't imagine a future that is without Google, but I think the open platform really has that potential to have everyone in the world contribute, collaborate and work together on a new entryway to the internet.

Correction: This story was updated July 18 to clarify that YouCode is aimed at developers, not You.com itself.


Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep ReadingShow less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep ReadingShow less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep ReadingShow less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.


Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories