Alibaba Said to Invest in Israeli Search Startup Twiggle

  • Alibaba said to be investing about $5 million to $10 million
  • Twiggle specializes in e-commerce search and big data

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is investing in Israeli startup Twiggle to tap its search technology and solidify its lead in Chinese e-commerce, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Tel Aviv-based company could help Alibaba improve the quality of online-shopping searches as the e-commerce operator expands in China and abroad, people familiar with matter said, declining to be named because the matter is private. The startup will get $5 million to $10 million from Alibaba, one of the people said.

Refining search technology has proven pivotal to shopping services like Amazon.com Inc. Twiggle, led by former Google Inc. executives Amir Konigsberg and Adi Avidor, uses machine learning and natural language processing to guess what shoppers are after. When users search for the “best laptop,” Twiggle will try to understand what that means: such as highest screen resolution, most memory, longest battery life and so on.

Alibaba declined to comment in an e-mailed statement. Twiggle couldn’t immediately provide comment.

The Chinese company has sustained a steady pace of investments as it builds on its e-commerce foundation while venturing into new areas such as artificial intelligence and Internet services. Alibaba and fellow Chinese Internet firms like Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Baidu Inc. are on the hunt for technology and content to drive longer-term growth.

— With assistance by Steven Yang, and Lulu Chen

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