I've seen a lot of new bots crawl my site recently and it got me thinking about search engines.
Basically, search is a solved problem. Of the alternatives I explored, most offered nothing exiting such as magazine-style page flipping, or thumbnail previews. I hardly see how that would help me locate useful information on the web.
No, search these days isn't about presentation, it's about quality of results and how much of the web you index. While #1 can always be improved, right now Google completely dominates at index size. Additionally, both of these can be influenced primarily by money by attracting great thinkers - Google - and performing massive scale-out - Google again. Google has the momentum to not only keep its current lead, but continue to refine and improve web search at a rate much greater than competitors.
The only companies(or will it be company?) that can really compete with cash and size are Yahoo and Microsoft. Yet even both of these a dwarfed in comparison to Google[source]. So your new search startup has basically ZERO chance of success unless you are lucky enough to get swooped up by one of the three mentioned above.
Obviously I'm talking about web search here. There will always be a place for niche search like local language, blogs, etc just like there will always be a place for niche products of any kind.
But I just can't imagine who, especially in this economy, is funneling money into these other web search startups. You might as well pour it down the drain.