May 14, 2024 - Technology

Perplexity CEO Aravind Srinivas takes shots at Google

Perplexity CEO & co-founder Aravind Srinivas speaks at Axios BFD in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Perplexity CEO & co-founder Aravind Srinivas speaks at Axios BFD in San Francisco on Tuesday. Photo credits: Axios BFD San Francisco 2024

Google's planned roll-out of AI-summarized search results doesn't faze Perplexity AI CEO and co-founder Aravind Srinivas — whose startup has offered a popular AI-driven search tool providing similar digests for nearly two years.

What they're saying: "In a world where everyone gets answers and doesn't have to click on links, the biggest loser is Google," Srinivas told Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva Tuesday at Axios BFD San Francisco.

Friction point: Srinivas — who spent a year as a research intern at Google from 2020 to 2021 — gently mocked the company's marketing resets as it has maneuvered to respond to the popularity of OpenAI's ChatGPT over the past 18 months.

  • "A year ago, it was called 'search generative experience.' Today it's called 'AI overview.' And I bet next year it'll be called something else. It's exactly the same story of them doing a new messaging app every year."

Srinivas also took jabs at Google's business model. "The one thing that Google got wrong is that the same unit of information that stands for truth, which is the links, is also the same unit of information that the advertiser bids on. So that's where there's a conflict between serving the user and serving the advertiser."

  • Perplexity, Srinivas said, was also exploring revenue from advertising, but it would try to sell ads more indirectly. "Ads should never come at the cost of serving a correct answer."

The other side: Google has always said that it never allows ad dollars to influence search results. But over the years its sponsored results have multiplied and grown visually more similar to the "organic," unsponsored results.

Follow the money: Perplexity recently announced it has raised an additional $62.7 million, taking its fundraising total to $164 million and valuation to over $1 billion.

  • AI startups keep raising more money, Srinivas said, because "you need to hire really smart people, and those people are expensive."

One fun thing: Kokalitcheva pointed out that at last year's BFD in San Francisco, Inflection AI's cofounders said they wanted to build a multi-billion dollar public company — but then later essentially dismantled their firm to join Microsoft.

  • "Famous last words," Srinivas quipped and said he was definitely not going to predict his company would go public.


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