My name is Marin Smiljanic and I’m the co-founder and CEO of Omnisearch, where we’re building the next generation of search technology. Omnisearch’s software is the only one in the market capable of finding information inside any type of content – from audio and video to documents, presentations, images, and basically anything else you can think of.
How I Started
I’m originally from Croatia, where I grew up and attended school all the way through college. In high school I discovered my passion for math and programming, achieving plenty of success in programming competitions.
It all snowballed from there, as I got an internship at Facebook and then a Silicon Valley startup called SingleStore. I then joined Amazon, where I stayed for about three years, and I worked as a software engineer on Amazon Web Services, the world’s leading cloud provider, and on Alexa, the intelligent voice assistant.
It was there that I got a taste of the problem that would eventually lead to Omnisearch. As you’d expect in a company of such size and complexity, we had a ton of video training materials and recorded lectures, densely packed with elaborate technical content.
I often found myself trying to refer back to those materials and find the information I was looking for. But there was no effective way to find exact parts of the videos where it was covered, so I’d waste a lot of time unnecessarily. I figured that this should be solved in a general way and offered to companies as a SaaS product.
The Founding Team Matters
Every startup needs a great founding team, and Omnisearch was no exception. My co-founder Matej Ferencevic and I had known each other for over ten years, starting from our days participating in programming competitions.
He also had startup experience, being one of the earliest employees at Memgraph, a successful venture-backed startup in the database space. Matej and I had been brainstorming ideas for a while and we settled on this as by far the most promising one. Matej took on the role of CTO while I became CEO.
First Steps and the Search for a Niche
The first prototype of Omnisearch was an incredibly simple product based on an application programming interface (API). In layman’s terms, this meant we provided a standard set of functions through which the customer could implement search audio and video search on their own site.
We launched this and recorded a really basic demo which is still online. The demo was overall met with a lot of enthusiasm and this gave us the confidence to double down on the product.
The next problem we needed to solve was who to sell the product to. Essentially we were searching for a niche or, in startup parlance, a “beachhead segment”. We considered a couple, but one really stood out as a powerful early adopter: online education.
If you think about it, online education is the perfect match for Omnisearch’s technology. Instructors produce a huge variety of different content types, from video lessons to slides, to text, to handouts in PDF or Microsoft Word.
We believed that enabling students to search all this content would be a major win, and practically self-evident to the course creators, whom we targeted as the main buyers.
Our timing was propitious in two ways. First and foremost, online education boomed during COVID-19, making it an overall far more attractive market to go after, as online become the new normal.
The other, more tactical part was that we connected with Thinkific, a Canadian public company that’s one of the market leaders in the Learning Management Systems (LMS) space that you can think of as Shopify for online courses.
It just so happened that they were launching their partner program. This allowed us to integrate with their platform and start getting our first paying customers.
Omnisearch: Fundraising and Evolution
A truly significant step occurred in August 2021 when we closed a pre-seed funding round led by Silicon Valley-based GoAhead Ventures. The firm is known for its super-efficient and founder-friendly process, including a pitch deck review, a short recorded video pitch, and an interview.
They recognized the potential of our technology and our founding team and, in turn, impressed us with their knowledge of SaaS and enterprise software. Prior to this, we were trying to raise money for half a year, to no avail. What changed in the meantime is that we finally got paying customers and great feedback.
Altogether the deal took less than two weeks to get finalized and we ended up raising $450,000 USD. This allowed us to ramp up hiring and our sales and marketing efforts. The fundraising round also helped us gain a bit of exposure in the media and thus solidify our brand further.
All the while we continued to invest heavily into the core technology until we truly became the most versatile search solution in the market. We also ramped up our game on social media, producing more content from blogs, customer testimonials and case studies, conference participation, new demos, podcast appearances, and more.
The most important thing is that we continued signing up new customers and have been getting incredibly enthusiastic responses from them, as you can see in the testimonials section of our site and our case studies.
What’s Next for Omnisearch?
The future is looking very bright for the company. We have a lot of different features in the pipeline that I won’t go into too much detail about, but it’ll include doubling down on our proprietary search algorithms and computer vision.
We’re also going to make it easy for customers to get data into Omnisearch as easily as possible, wherever it may be – from Google Drive or OneDrive to YouTube or Vimeo channels, to plain old websites. And we’ll invest more heavily into security features.
Most importantly, we’ve started expanding to other verticals apart from EdTech, including media, science, conferences, and more. At the end of the day, our goal is to make every site in the world use Omnisearch.