The search engine market, dominated by Google and followed by Bing or others like Yandex (Russia), is considered quite a crowded market. However, there are always attempts aimed at solving local search problems for communities that have limited access to the full functionalities.
Gjirafa.com is such, a stubborn competitor acting as a search engine from Kosovo focused on Albanian content. Not long ago it applied for the 2014 program of StartupYard, a three-month seed accelerator for technology startups.
Officially it opened for all visitors on 9th October 2014, offering full-text search, news aggregation, a transport scheduler for Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia, a weather widget, and Albanian web facts.
The obvious exception is text search, where Google is, of course, the leader, but the founder of Gjirafa claims that they can do a better job, as they are focused only on one language and one specific segment of the web. “That’s worked for Seznam, and we think they’ve shown us the way to success against the Google Goliath” stated Mergim in an interview for StartupYard a few months ago.
In the meantime Google’s services are slowly expanding to the Balkan region, including the launch of the project for Google Street View in Macedonia, while not long ago it also expanded the features on Google.al.
“We are not direct competitors with Google, we just serve this market better because we go and get data manually,” said Mergi. However, he remains realistic about the challenge, well-aware of the Goliath he’s battling: With a dedicated team, Google could beat us in three to six months”, stated Mergim in an interview for InVentures.
But as far as we are aware, we are the only ones in the world focusing our research on processing the Albanian language text programmatically utilizing NLP, so we have a head start.
Can Google get the information at the costs we have and build partnerships in Kosovo as we do? I don’t think so” commented Mergim.