Searching in the Balkans
Mergim Cahani (Class of '09) might one day be thought of as the Balkans’ answer to Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google. Co-founder and CEO of the search engine Gjirafa, he aims to bring relevant and easily accessible information to over 12 million Albanian-speaking people in the Balkans and around the world.
Gjirafa is strategically positioned in a way that Google could not hope to match: not only is the Albanian language lexically unique and complex, but much of the information that users try to find—bus schedules, for example, or business addresses—has not yet been digitized in that region. Cahani and his team are working hard to rectify the situation.
The startup recently won $2 million in Series A funding, which will undoubtedly help bring that goal closer. Gjirafa was already named “Innovation of the Year” at the 2015 National Albanian ICT Award, and Cahani has assembled a crack advisory board that includes his former professor Torsten Suel, a noted expert in the field of search engines.
Cahani’s long-term goal is to become “the front page of the Albanian speaking web,” he says. “To be synonymous with ‘Internet’ in the Albanian mind. If you speak Albanian, when you open a browser, it will open on www.gjirafa.com. We will provide highly relevant services and ease of access to information that is geographically localized and based on the Albanian language. Gjirafa will be more than just a useful search engine, it will be everywhere for everything.”