Alibaba Invests in AI Startup

Alibaba invests in Artificial Intelligence (AI) startup, Twiggle.


Online retail giant Alibaba has invested in an Israeli startup that is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to evolve ecommerce search technologies to an entirely new level of sophistication.

Twiggle, based in Tel Aviv and founded in 2013 by CEO Dr Amir Konigsberg and CTO Dr Adi Avidor, has raised US$14.7 million in its last funding round.

The finance Twiggle has been able to secure will be used to expand and accelerate the research and development of the organisations core project.

The technologies involved include predictive analytics in the mining of Big Data, machine learning and natural language processing which, in part, is that form of AI concerned with the science of how humans and digital technologies interact.

With this as the basic architecture, Twiggle has built a search platform that is unique to ecommerce.

It delivers, they say, a better user experience since it provides shoppers with greater accuracy when seeking out their choices.

Essentially it translates language people use in a search selection to a result that yields greater relevance.

It aims to eliminate a pain point for online shoppers – the long troll through too many near miss choices – a result of the search engine’s inability to refine its selection based on product knowledge and word choice.

Twiggle says that they are ahead of competitors; which suggests that voice search, conversational interfaces and mobile search will have a significant impact moving forward.

Reports surfaced last month of Alibaba’s involvement in Twiggle.

Now the Tel Aviv company has been able to confirm Alibaba’s investment, though the terms remain confidential, and the latter has answered all questions of motivation and strategy with silence.

Still, a number of news and media agencies based in the Middle East have estimated Alibaba’s commitment at US$5-10 million.

Konigsberg told media that the company aims to redefine the way users engage with ecommerce.

“We are wholly focused on bringing the most advanced search experience and technologies to digital commerce to help this industry take a massive leap forward,” he said. “Alibaba is an incredible company, and we’re delighted to partner with them.”

Both Konigsberg and Avidor are veterans of Google Israel and have posted more than thirty patents in the United States.

Alibaba has it own AI platform. It made its public debut with a spectacular splash of publicity in April, on one of China’s top rated TV shows, reality talent program; I Am a Singer. The AI – which is compared to Google’s AlphaGo – correctly selected Chinese-American singer Coco Lee as the winner of the show’s competition.

Alibaba told media then that they were still exploring applications for the AI, including customer service and traffic habits.