There's a new search engine in town called Loku, which tailors users' Internet search to their local community. Loku offers users search results based on relevance and proximity, using location-based public information and natural language search technology.
Loku creates an "analytical layer" on top of search results for a given location, aggregating buzz as expressed in natural language across various opinion-based Internet platforms, like Yelp, but with a more local focus, as with Patch. Loku offers a "Know Local" function that allows users to fine-tune their searches for Top Stories, Good Eats, Culture, Shopping, and Police Beat.
Loku, which went into public beta Tuesday, received $350,000 in seed funding in 2008, followed by a $600,000 round in November 2010, and $300k in July 2011. Initial funds were invested by Street himself, with later funding rounds coming from angel investors, including 500 Startups. Loku plans to release a mobile app for iPhone and Android sometime in Winter 2011.
Vator News contacted Loku CEO Dan Street to learn more.
Vator News: In layman's terms, how does Loku "localize" Internet search?
Dan Street: Here's the easiest way to think about it. You know how Google ranks pages based on links? We rank a page for local relevance based on local language patterns. Does a blog mention the words of a local restaurant, or person, or landmark? Does the grammar structure match what's typical for the area? Once we identify the locality, we look for relevancy. Do we think this page will be important to the people who live in an area?
What does Loku offer that other search engines don't?
We don't really consider ourselves a search engine - we consider ourselves a "big data" answer. Let me de-jargon that for you. We don't try to find you the single best article based on your key word search. Instead, we find you answers.
Here's an example of the difference. If you search for a "giraffe" on google, you'll get the best article about giraffes. But in local, there's is a different problem. There's not one single page that gives you answers to questions like finding a good restaurant for your Saturday night date. There are tidbits everywhere, across social media, blogs, and other places.
So our approach looks at ALL the results for what you want, and figures out what matters from all the data. That approach allows us to give you relevant information without you having to enter key terms. We do "searching" for you. So if you're a starving artist, you'll likely want different restaurants locally than a rich banker. We bridge that gap for you without you having to hunt and look around.
How does Loku make money? Does the site have any plan to collect user information for targeted ads?
We make money by partnering with others sites who need customers. They pay us when we provide them paying customers. So as an example, you can find deals on our site, even though they originated as Groupon, Living Social, or something else. We then get a commission when our users buy.
We have no plans to collect user information for targeted ads, or be creepy about privacy. However, we do want to help people find local businesses, deals, and opportunities they really care about. As an example, will we use your location preferences to find deals that are closeby and that you'll like? Absolutely.
What is the importance of simplifying Internet search the way that Loku does?
In most situations, search doesn't need to be simplified. It's great for product review, movie quotes, or even finding flights. But in the area where we sit, Local discovery, traditional models are just too cumbersome. In the new world of mobile and social content, people don't want to have to type in search terms to find results on the go. They want the results to come to them. That's what we do.