Ina Fried

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Grokr Raises Another $2.4 Million in Quest to Bring Google-Now-Like Service to iOS

For the past couple of years, Srivats Sampath has quietly been trying to redefine search for the mobile device.

“Traditional Web search makes you work hard for your information,” the former McAfee.com CEO told AllThingsD in an interview this week. “It’s almost like the DOS prompt.”

That’s a luxury people can afford when sitting at a computer and keyboard. But phones, Sampath said, have small screens and virtual keyboards, necessitating a better option.

Enter Grokr, Sampath’s Sunnyvale-based start-up that aims to deliver information before someone even knows they need it. Think of it as Google Now on steroids, focused on Apple devices.

“The future of search is not about searching,” Sampath said. “Information that we will need will just find us. Search transitions into this virtual mind reader and tells you things before you need to ask.”

Sampath, who also previously worked at U.S. Venture Partners, Mercora and Netscape, said the app will be able to do things like let you know if the band you’re listening to is coming to town, or if there is a delay on the roads you typically take to work.

Grokr is revealing Friday that it has raised a further $2.4 million in funding to finance its effort. Backers including NEA, U.S. Venture Partners, Triple Point Ventures and Lerer Ventures have so far pumped $4.2 million into the company.

Its product, an iPhone app, is still in private testing, with a public release slated for later this year.

Some of the information it locates will be pushed automatically, while less urgent matters will appear only when the app is opened. The goal is to be “just noisy enough,” Sampath said. Likewise, the company will have to strike a balance between fetching information a person might want and not draining the battery by constantly pinging a server.

Sampath gets that in tackling search, even mobile search, the company will necessarily be putting itself in competition with Google and Microsoft, among others. But he’s not shying away from the challenge.

“Someone needs to step up and say ‘Hey guys, this is what market needs.’”


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