December 3, 2023

Founder Richard Socher’s research lays the groundwork for today’s AI leap CEO Richard Socher may not be a household name, but if you’ve been in AI circles, you probably know who he is.Beginning in 2014, he authored the influential PhD thesis With regards to natural language processing, the fact that he helped pave the way for today’s compelling AI technologies didn’t escape him as he tried to build the next generation of search engines.

Shortly after that paper was published, he founded MetaMind, a startup that Salesforce acquired two years later. In fact, as chief scientist at Salesforce, he helped build the company’s AI layer called Einstein.

After leaving Salesforce, he founded, a consumer search engine, in 2020. Clearly, he was up for the challenge, but he also recognized that, with time and the ability to innovate, he had two advantages that could allow his company to start chipping away at Google’s search hegemony.

The fact that Neeva, a search startup started by two Google veterans, was recently acquired by Snowflake after failing to find a product-market fit doesn’t deter him. In terms of users, his search engine is already much bigger than Neeva’s ever been, he said.

But he also understands that what he’s doing is not just theoretical; it’s a business, and he has to look to a future in which he’s not just burning cash, but earning it. He’s gotten to the point where, three years into his entrepreneurial journey, he has to shift his focus from growth to start focusing on revenue, having raised a modest $45 million.

We helped start the party

While AI research has been going on for decades, groundbreaking research by Socher and his colleagues at Stanford University in 2014 helped open the door to today’s breakthroughs. He has continued his research and published his thesis as recently as 2020, when he started putting all his efforts into his current company.

As a scientist, he says, it’s fantastic to see his research being put to use in the way it is now. “I realized the other week that as a researcher, if you’re ahead of your time, you’re a visionary. You get a lot of credit for people who use your ideas later, and you say ‘oh wow, we Invented word vectors and context vectors, then hint engineering and a single model for all NLP and Protein Design LL.M.,” Socher told TechCrunch+.