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SeMI Technologies: optimizing business data searches with machine learning on Google Cloud

About SeMI Technologies

SeMI Technologies is a Netherlands-based software company that has created an open-source vector search engine for business called Weaviate. Launched in 2019, this AI-first database uses machine-learning models to enable users to better index and search through their data. SeMI Technologies closed a $16 million Series A funding round in February 2022.

Industries: Technology
Location: The Netherlands

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Startup software company SeMI Technologies turns to Google Cloud to build its cloud-native vector search business, using credits from the Google for Startups Cloud Program to get started.

RESULTS

  • Teams are now able to work collaboratively in different timezones, in ways they couldn’t do previously
  • Leverage the ease of use of Google Cloud Platform to build complex, scalable systems with a global team

Building a vector database from scratch on Google Cloud

Data is king for any business looking to stay ahead, but this is only true if that data can be analyzed to create actionable insights. With structured quantifiable data that is often stored on data warehouses and SQL databases, this is fairly easy to achieve. It is much harder to effectively analyze unstructured qualitative data, such as photographs, emails, audio recordings or website copy.

Dutch software company SeMI Technologies created Weaviate to solve this problem. An open-source vector search engine, or AI-first database, Weaviate uses machine-learning models to store and make sense of business data on a deeper level than a traditional search can offer. It uses a more natural and helpful search functionality that can understand nuance in language.

“Everybody who works with data has a search problem that needs solving,” explains Bob van Luijt, the CEO of SeMI Technologies. “When Google changed from PageRank to RankBrain, and started using machine learning to improve its search results for the first time, it was a big moment. For me, it was a huge spark of inspiration. I knew that I wanted to commoditize this and give this power to other businesses as well.”

“We are a success story, thanks to Google Cloud credits. They are so important for new startups. We didn’t have any funding in the beginning, we started out with nothing. These credits helped us to get started and helped us to prove our worth to investors.”

Bob van Luijt, CEO, SeMI Technologies

A dream powered by Google for Startups Cloud Program

Just like many startups, SeMI Technologies began with a simple idea and limited funds. Bob van Luijt had one advantage over others just starting out on pursuing a digital dream, however, he was already a Google Developer Expert. Not only did this give him the right skillset, it also helped him network.

“I met a lot of people at Google through the Google Developer Expert program, so when I embarked on this journey with Weaviate, they helped connect me with people who could help us get started,” he says. “We were lucky enough to access the Google for Startups Cloud Program, which gave us credits to use against Google Cloud products. This was so helpful in getting us going.”

Having previously worked with Google Cloud, building his cloud-native vector search on Google Cloud was the obvious choice for van Luijt and the Google Cloud credits helped him to get started. The credits offer eligible startup businesses up to £100,000 to spend on Google Cloud solutions, as well as access to dedicated tech and business support. The program helped SeMI Technologies to get Weaviate off the ground and into a good place for when it started pitching to investors. Having just completed a $16 million Series A funding round, it’s proof that a good idea sometimes just needs a helping hand in the beginning.

“We are a success story, thanks to Google Cloud credits,” says van Luijt. “They are so important for new startups. We didn’t have any funding in the beginning, we started out with nothing. These credits helped us to get started and helped us to prove our worth to investors.”

Building from the ground up on Google Cloud

Weaviate relies on two key Google Cloud products: Google Kubernetes Engine and Google Compute Engine. As Weaviate runs on Kubernetes clusters, it made sense and was so much easier to deploy, scale and manage Kubernetes. “We depend on Kubernetes,” says van Luijt. "I can't think of any other platform that’s more efficient to run Kubernetes on than Google Cloud. The developer experience is so easy to use. From integrating our pipelines to setting up a demo to doing deep testing, everything just works really well. It is so important for us."

Ease of use is a continuing theme with the company’s Compute Engine too. As with all machine learning models, Weaviate needs access to GPUs, and while GPU acceleration is key for this process, so is efficiency. By offering easy access to the GPUs within the company’s Kubernetes clusters, Compute makes it much easier to create more efficient processes, through effective autoscaling. By ensuring that GPUs don’t run when they are not in use, Weaviate can be more efficient with pricing for its customers.

"I can't think of any other platform that’s more efficient to run Kubernetes on than Google Cloud. The developer experience is so easy to use. From integrating our pipelines to setting up a demo to doing deep testing, everything just works really well. It is so important for us."

Bob van Luijt, CEO, SeMI Technologies

Easy collaboration across timezones

Google Workspace has also played a role in the company’s success. As a fully remote workforce working in an asynchronous manner, SeMI Technologies relies on colleagues being able to collaborate simultaneously wherever they are.

“Using solutions such as Sheets, Docs and Drive has been invaluable to us as a company, they allow us to work and stay connected in different timezones,” says van Luijt. “Even when customers request information from us, we can just send them a Google Doc link. We work entirely in and from the cloud.”

As far as the impact Google Cloud has had on Weaviate and SeMI Technologies as a business, it’s the backbone that the business is built upon; not just from a technology perspective, but a human one too.

“As we are a startup built on Google Cloud, we don’t have any KPIs that necessarily show its impact. But a very binary KPI is that if we didn’t have these Google Cloud tools, what we do, and how we work would not be possible,” says van Luijt

“And, our relationship with our contacts at Google Cloud is invaluable too. Google Cloud has the attitude of if you are successful, we are successful. That’s refreshing. Some competitors won’t even talk to you until you’re doing $10 million in ARR. Google Cloud was welcoming from the beginning. It knows it’s a journey to success and has always wanted to help us get there.”

Expanding potential with new capabilities

Looking to the future, van Luijt is excited about the possibilities of new cloud capabilities that will enable Weaviate to deliver something new to its customers. “The great thing about Google Cloud is that as it evolves and gets better over time, it allows us to bring more exciting products to our users and customers too. We think there will soon be a time when we can offer something called hybrid SaaS where, because of the quality of the clusters and the easy access to GPUs, we can offer our service on a customer’s own Google Cloud environment. That’s really important for our customers in industries where keeping control over their data is a must.”

"There are a few other things we are looking at too. I need to keep that under the radar for now, but it’s safe to say, the things we have in the pipeline with Google Cloud are super exciting indeed."

“Google has the attitude of if you are successful, we are successful. That’s refreshing. Some competitors won’t even talk to you until you’re doing $10 million in ARR. Google was welcoming from the beginning. It knows it’s a journey to success and has always wanted to help us get there.”

Bob van Luijt, CEO, SeMI Technologies

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About SeMI Technologies

SeMI Technologies is a Netherlands-based software company that has created an open-source vector search engine for business called Weaviate. Launched in 2019, this AI-first database uses machine-learning models to enable users to better index and search through their data. SeMI Technologies closed a $16 million Series A funding round in February 2022.

Industries: Technology
Location: The Netherlands