Russian search engine Yandex created quite a buzz when announcingthe acquisition of the TweetedTimes last week. Previously when Russia’s leading search engine announced its start-up investment program Yandex.Factory (Russian: Яндекс.Фабрика) in April 2011, the online community was quick to spread the word, because Yandex announced it would financially support not only start-ups in Russia or the former Soviet states, but to invest anywhere they see potential.
Recap: What is Yandex.Factory again?
With Yandex.Factory, Yandex looks at financing start-ups relating to new online business models, multimedia technologies for current services, applications for geo-location data, personal and public data flow technologies, user behaviour analysis, interface applications and data processing. Anyone with a visionary project related to any of these fields, can simply fill in an online application form and send it straight to Yandex.
Those who work in the Russian search market will know that Yandex.Factory is not the first initiative of this kind from Yandex. In fact, the search engine has been hosting four so-called Yandex start-up events with pretty much the same intention since last year with the first one outside Russia being held in July 2011 in Odessa, Ukraine. Four companies were participating at this event and while it’s useful looking at what Yandex actually decides to invest in, taking a look at what types of companies they expressed an interest in, is also worth considering when looking into the future of Russian search. So these 4 companies were: a platform for the creation of online magazines (OWOX) and one for the publication of online media (Enternet5), a semantic system for monitoring and analysing online media (SemanticForce) and one geo-information related service (without a title so far).
Yandex further announced on their start-up blog to “co-operate in one way or other” with Subber.com (video subtitling), Wizee Shopper (mobile app for shopping), MapsWithMe (online mobile platform based on open street maps), Adumentum (ads for social networks) and an online photo editing platform.
Three start-ups are currently receiving funds through Yandex.Factory: Zennmoney, Social Market and Refine.io. Zenmoney (Russian: Дзен-мани) is a financial planning tool, Social Market is a social network app specifically for online shopping and Refine.io allows you to build prototype mobile apps.
In addition, Yandex has an active say in choosing projects of InCube’s Accelerator and thus providing support and expertise to new projects similar to YCombinator in the U.S. Previously, the companies Loginza, allowing visitors to log on to websites with social network accounts, and WebVisor, a programme that tracks user behaviour on-site and has been integrated into Yandex.Metrica, have been added to Yandex’s portfolio.
Start-ups by sector
Categorising the start-ups over the past 12 months by sector; mobile, social and the semantic web (including media publication/distribution) are where the focus seems to lie for Yandex going ahead. Looking at the above chart, it is less of a surprise that the search engine announced today that it will now show two types of results for queries it thinks contain a spelling mistake: results for the actual query and results for what it thinks the user meant.
The sort of start-ups that are interesting to Yandex indicate that the search engine is empowering the user rather than dictating search behaviour – from users managing their finances online to sharing a shopping experience on a dedicated platform. It is hard to believe that this search engine with a strong focus on natural language, cutting edge technology and authentic human behaviour will be fooled by an over-optimised page title and a directory link.