How Two Ex-Pinterest Search Experts Caught Biz Stone’s Eye

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Lance Riedel and Nigel Daley spent years in search discovery, but it was their time at Pinterest, launching Pinterest Shopping, that revealed how search engines could personalize online shopping experiences.

Typically, people expect online shopping to involve typing a keyword and relying on a search engine like Google to generate ranked results.

However, their experience at Pinterest taught them how to utilize large language models and image identification AI to tailor results not just to the keyword, but also to a person’s previous actions, Riedel explained. 

The more a user interacts with such a search engine, the more it learns their preferences, leading to better shopping results. 

In 2023, they founded Vantage Discovery to provide this advanced search engine to brands lacking the resources or expertise in LLM and other AI forms. 

For instance, a shopper with a history of engaging with BoHo garments will see different results than one who prefers streetwear when searching for “a dress for a fun night out.” 

Vantage goes further with image recognition. Shoppers can ask the search engine to “show me more like this” to display related products. Additionally, it can integrate with the person’s Pinterest profile to generate personalized shopping recommendations based on their pinned items.

“At the core of our engine is a custom vector database, combining semantic understanding of user queries with their personal style to deliver personalized and targeted results in milliseconds across millions of items,” Riedel said. 

Lance Riedel and Nigel Daley, co-founders of Vantage Discovery. (Image credit: Vantage Discovery)

Like many commerce-oriented search engines, Vantage allows merchants or brands to control the ranking of results. “We can also re-rank results using a custom model optimized for our customers’ business metrics.”

The startup, launched in early 2024, collaborates with companies like Cooklist, Koodos, West.co, and Bookopolis. Daley mentioned that they are generating revenue and working with one of the world’s largest retailers, though he did not provide specific figures. 

Vantage Discovery attracted Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, who joined the company’s recent $16 million Series A round and now serves on its board. This follows $4 million in unannounced seed funding raised last year from Stone and Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp.

“One of his other investments required a platform supporting RAG, search, and novel discovery features,” Riedel said. RAG, or retrieval augmented generation, merges retrieval and generative AI models. “Biz was so impressed that he invested in our seed round.”

The funding round was led by Lobby Capital, with participation from LoveFrom’s Jony Ive, Apple’s former chief design officer, Sharp, The Hive, Future Positive, and Common Metal. Besides Stone, Lobby Capital’s David Hornik, an investor in companies like Gitlab, Bill.com, and Evite, joined the Vantage Discovery board.

Meanwhile, Riedel and Daley are exploring deeper involvement in “merchandise tooling,” the method online stores or search engines use to rank results. They aim to infuse it with AI capabilities.

“This space has long seen merchandisers influencing search results,” Riedel said. “While it’s crucial for retailers, we believe we can eliminate some of the tedious tasks.” 

Christine Hall
Christine Hall
Christine writes about enterprise/B2B, e-commerce, and foodtech. She most recently reported on venture capital rounds for Crunchbase News. Based in Houston, Christine previously reported for publications including the Houston Business Journal, the Texas Medical Center’s Pulse magazine, and Community Impact Newspaper. She has an undergraduate journalism degree from Murray State University and a graduate degree from The Ohio State University.

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