Chinese Internet giant Alibaba Group Holdings, which runs China's Taobao online shopping marketplace, has invested an undisclosed amount in Twiggle, a Tel Aviv, Israel-based company developing ecommerce search technologies, as part of its Series A financing.
Amir Konigsberg, CEO and co-founder of Twiggle, declined to say how and if the two companies will work together, but it's well documented that Twiggle aims to support ecommerce companies whether or not they become investors.
The most recent round brings total funding to about $20 million, according to sources familiar with the deal. The company will use it to grow its research and development team in Israel and drive global expansion plans.
Those expansion plans mean that Twiggle must have the ability to integrate with varying kinds of product catalogs, taxonomies, and data sets.
In addition to Alibaba investment, Naspers Ventures led a $12.5 million Series A round in April with participation from new and existing investors including Yahoo Japan, State of Mind Ventures, and Sir Ronald Cohen. The company also previously raised $2.2 million in seed funding.
The latest financing round will support Twiggle's research and development (R&D) team as they expand on their work in integration, natural language processing and artificial intelligence, along with support for search.
The R&D will improve the way ecommerce search engines understand and interpret user queries, according to Konigsberg.
Better interpretation meaning more variations of language, more
languages, and at much greater nuance, Konigsberg said.
"Language is a very complex phenomenon and to understand it well you need to understand what words and sentences mean, you need to know how people use language, and you also need to know many things about the world, and the way the world works, so as to be able to make the appropriate interpretations," he said.
Twiggle also announced that Udi Manber, former chief scientist at Yahoo, and founder and CEO of Amazon’s search unit A9, and head of search at Google, has joined the company’s Board of Directors. Manber left Google in 2015 to join the National Institutes of Health.
Noa Ganot, former head of product in eBay’s structured data organization, also joined Twiggle as VP of product.