Silicon Valley venture capital firm Lightspeed has led a $US12.5 million ($19 million) Series A funding round for Australian vector search engine start-up Marqo.

Blackbird Ventures and Singapore-based January Capital also participated in the round, less than six months after Blackbird led Marqo’s $US5.2 million seed round in which January Capital also participated.

Another contributor to the current round is Rob Skillington co-founder and chief technology officer of US online observability platform Chronosphere.

Lightspeed partner Hemant Mohapatra said Marqo enables users to search the way they think. Early growth had been “phenomenal”, he said, and Lightspeed was excited to back the company.

Alongside the new funding, Marqo with shift its headquarters from Melbourne to San Francisco and add an experience US sales director to its senior team. Co-founder and chief executive Tom Hamer will also relocate to San Francisco but the company will retain presences in Australia and London.

Marqo was founded in 2022 by Hamer and Jesse Clark, both former Amazon employees.

The pair decided to develop an improved vector search platform to extract information from unstructured data such as emails, Google Docs, social media posts, videos and images. Unstructured data makes up more than 80% of enterprise data and the proportion is continuing to increase.

Hamer and Clarke theorised that improved vector searching would be the key to harnessing the value in unstructured data and realising the full potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in day-to-day living. But they recognised that their vector searching technology needed to be more efficient than existing technology and capable of being quickly deployed for commercial use.

Hamer and Clark say Marqo has made significant progress toward that objective. Their Marqo Cloud product, which uses machine learning to progressively refine results, has gained strong customer support including from Australian online businesses Redbubble and Temple & Webster.

Clark, Marqo’s chief technology officer, said: “Mastering unstructured data will be key to success in the AI race. Our platform transforms this challenge into an opportunity, creating vector embeddings that deliver intuitive and accurate search results with human-like understanding; it opens up tremendous possibilities for the future of search.”  


Lightspeed’s Mohapatra said: “The world of search is fast moving from “keyword-based” to “natural language-based” thanks to wide adoption of products such as ChatGPT. Marqo’s mission is to bring this transformational technology to every company in the world through a simple developer API and an enterprise grade platform offered on-premises and on cloud.”  

Image: Marqo founders Tom Hamer and Jesse Clark. Backers say they have developed an improved vector search technology.