Digital Insights

David-sized Vurb Battles Goliath-sized Google for Mobile Search

Published: August 19, 2014

Contextual search engine startup Vurb was recently named the winner of the Disrupt Cup 2014 at New York’s TechCrunch, adding $50,000 of prize money to its war chest of $8 million in venture capital funding. The San Francisco-based tech company is currently in closed beta mode with a mobile-based innovation that could give search engine giant Google a run for its money.

According to Vurb founder and CEO Bobby Lo, the problem with the current mobile search landscape is that users have to choose between a single multi-purpose app that performs a number of tasks in a mediocre fashion or a number of single-purpose apps that requires users to jump back and forth between apps.

Lo said that Vurb was designed to aggregate utility from leading third-party apps, enabling Vurb users to quickly make decisions while others are still clicking links.

How Vurb Works
Vurb’s search function has ditched the traditional list of blue-colored links – a real pain for mobile navigation – in favor of informative cards drawn from factual databases as well as third-party sources such as Yelp, Netflix, YouTube and Crunchbase.

  • Although Vurb is currently limited to verticals such as movies, places and media, it has plans to expand its reach to include shopping and travel in the near future.
  • Vurb anticipates the most logical reason for a search, and displays an array of related information.
  • Here’s an example of Vurb in action. Imagine you want to take in a movie. Start your search and Vurb displays Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes scores as well as location-based showtimes, movie trailers and reviews. Select your favorite theater and click to buy tickets for the showtime you want. Click the Nearby Places button and you’ll see a selection of restaurant and club options to round out your evening on the town. Choose your favorite restaurant and Vurb pulls up menus, maps and a table booking button. Best of all, you can do all this without typing another word after your initial query or navigating through a confusing array of tabs – two tasks that are a particularly clumsy chore to accomplish on a mobile device.

Why Vurb’s Approach Makes a Lot of Sense

  • Multiple-purpose monolithic apps work well on the Web, but are much less functional on a mobile device where many of their features are buried in hidden menus. This makes for a clumsy navigating chore for mobile users, who put up with the inconvenience mainly because everything is conveniently bundled together. Which brings up another problem that is fairly common to product bundling: trying to bundle too many functions together usually means that the quality of individual functions suffers.
  • Single-purpose apps have grown in popularity primarily due to the ease and speed with which they can be accessed. Unfortunately, this requires the user to juggle a number of different apps to get all of the information needed to make a decision.
  • Vurb’s concept is to serve as a bridge between the monolithic and single-purpose apps in a way that preserves the best of both approaches while eliminating the disadvantages.
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