Coveo: A 15 Year old $1 Billion Start Up Unicorn in Canada!

November 6, 2019

I read “Coveo Raises US$172M at $1B+ Valuation for AI-Based Enterprise Search and Personalization.” The write up states:

Search and personalization services continue to be a major area of investment among enterprises, both to make their products and services more discoverable (and used) by customers, and to help their own workers get their jobs done, with the market estimated to be worth some $100 billion annually. Today, one of the big startups building services in this area raised a large round of growth funding to continue tapping that opportunity.

Like Elastic, Algolia, and LucidWorks, Coveo is going to have to generate sufficient revenues to pay back its investors. Perhaps the early supporters have cashed out, but the new money is betting on the future.

Coveo was founded in Quebec City more than a decade ago. The desktop search company Copernic spun off Coveo in 2004. The original president was Laurent Simoneau. Mr. Tetu is an investor with great confidence in enterprise software, and he has become the “founder”, according to the write up. In April 2018, Coveo obtain about $100 million from Evergreen Coast Capital.

DarkCyber recalls that Coveo has moved from Microsoft-centric search to search as a service to customer experience and now personalization.

In 2005, I wrote this about the upsides of the Coveo approach in the Enterprise Search Report I compiled for an outfit lost to memory:

Coveo is a reasonably-priced, stable product. Any organization with Microsoft search will improve access to information with a system like Coveo’s. Microsoft SharePoint customers will want to do head-to-head comparisons with other “solutions” to Microsoft’s native search solution. Coveo has a number of features that make it a worth contender. Other benefits of the Coveo approach include:

  • Web-based administration tool allows straightforward configuration and monitoring of the system.
  • Automatic indexing of new and updated documents in near real-time.
  • Includes linguistic and statistical technologies that can identify the key concepts and the key sentences of indexed documents. Provides automated document summaries for faster reading and filtering.
  • Groups information sources into collections for field-specific searches.
  • The product is attractively priced.
  • Tightly integrated with other Microsoft products and Windows-based security regimes.
  • Customer base has grown comparatively quite rapidly and customers tend to speak well of the product.

I noted these considerations:

The software is Windows-centric – both in terms of its own software as well as document security settings it tracks – which may be an issue with certain types of organizations. You will have to assign permissions to index to allow the ASP.NET worker process user to access the index. The task is simplified, but it can be overlooked. Administrative controls are presented without calling attention to actions that require particular attention. Coveo is still however able to search content on any operating system, application, or server. Other drawbacks of the Coveo search system include:

  • There is limited software development support to allow customization or extensions of the core technology to other applications, although the company is expanding the product’s reach through Dot Net-based APIs.
  • When the system is installed and its defaults accepted, the “Everyone” group is enabled. Administrators will want to customize this setting. A wizard would be a useful option for organizations new to enterprise search.
  • No native taxonomy support, except through partner Entrieva.
  • Achieving scalability beyond hundreds of millions of documents requires appropriate resources.

My final take on the company was:

Coveo Enterprise Search meets many distinct needs of the small and medium-sized business that has standardized on the Microsoft platform, while still providing a few critical advanced search capabilities. Perhaps more importantly, CES minimizes search training, system maintenance, and other cost “magnets” that typically accompany an enterprise search deployment.
Like a handful of other products in this report, you can test Coveo out first, via a free download of a document-limited version.

The challenge for Copernic is to make enough sales and to generate robust sustainable income. This is the uphill run that Algolia, Elastic, LucidWorks, and probably a number of other enterprise search vendors face. Perhaps an outfit like Xerox will buy up, which would be one way to get the investors their money?

DarkCyber wishes Coveo the best. But a start up unicorn? No, that is not exactly correct for a 15 year old outfit. This push to make the investors smile is not for the faint hearted or those who have a solid grasp of the formidable enterprise search options available today. Plus there are outfits like Diffeo and other next generation information access systems available for free (Eleasticsearch) or bundled with other sophisticated information management tools (Amazon, search, managed blockchain, workflows, and a clever approach to vendor lock in.)

One tip: Don’t visit Quebec City in February during a snow storm.

Stephen E Arnold, November 6, 2019

Stephen E Arnold, November 5, 2019

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