Long-time open source contributor, Dr. Nick Knize, launches Lucenia Inc. for search and analytics

Published: Mar 20, 2024
By: Erica Lindberg

We’re proud to welcome Lucenia to Open Core Ventures’ portfolio of open charter companies! Lucenia is a search and analytics engine built on top of Apache Lucene. Founder and CTO, Nick Knize, PhD, brings over a decade of industry experience and expertise in Apache Lucene, Elasticsearch, and OpenSearch.

While companies continue to struggle to get a handle on raising cloud costs, Lucenia offers an autoscaling solution that saves resources while also offering a self-hosted option equal in capabilities. “Lucenia’s hybrid approach puts control back in the hands of customers,” said Sid Sijbrandij, General Partner at Open Core Ventures (OCV). “People are looking for fast, efficient, and flexible search and analytics options that Lucenia is uniquely positioned to deliver.” Unlike current monolithic search engines, Lucenia utilizes independent stateless micro-functions that can flexibly scale based on real-time demand. Using a combination of serverless and autoscaling features, Lucenia aims to make it easy for businesses to extract meaningful data and insights without overpaying in cloud costs.

An expert in geospatial data structures, CTO Nick Knize has a long tenure working on open source and commercial search engines for both public and private sector. During his time at Elastic, he developed the data structure that became the foundation for numeric search and geospatial search and later led the transition from Open Distro for Elasticsearch to OpenSearch at Amazon. “Nick’s background in data structures coupled with his experience working on open source search engines make him a great fit to lead OCV’s newest open charter company,” said Betty Ma, COO at OCV. “We’re looking forward to seeing the significant contributions Lucenia will make to open source.”

Built as a true autoscale-as-you-need platform and incorporated as a public benefit company, Lucenia plans to release the majority of its features under an open source license and charge customers primarily based on scaling needs. As an OCV open charter company, Lucenia is legally committed to clauses of the corporate charter, which include a commitment to not move previously open source code to the proprietary code base, making the majority of code open source, and not delaying security fixes to the open source code base. “There’s a lot of value in being able to stay true to an open source core and make money at something, said Nick. “There is a balance there.”

With the initial $2M investment from OCV, Lucenia plans to hire a small team of engineers from across open source projects to start developing the Lucenia open source core using Kubernetes, OpenSearch, and Apache Lucene.

With a PhD in remote sensing, image processing, and computer vision, Nick specializes in high dimension vector data applications for image processing and computer vision use cases—two things he’s put work in search engines. Coming from the government sector, Nick joined Elasticsearch early on to improve geospatial in the Apache Lucene codebase. “Elastic hired me to work on geospatial use cases in Lucene and to make it work better for their customers,” said Nick. “That data structure became the foundation for numeric search and geospatial search which expanded to GeoShapes.” After years spent on improving Lucene, he started working on bringing his Lucene work to the Elasticsearch architecture.

An early employee at Elastic, Nick witnessed the company’s rise from a Series C startup to a publicly traded company. “Working at Elastic in the early days was as fun as working at any new startup,” said Nick. “It’s exciting. I got a chance to just take ownership of a whole lot. That’s what draws me to the open source and startup culture.” As the company evolved with time and size, Nick followed a new opportunity to work on Lucene and bring the open source way of working to Amazon.

“What originally brought me to Amazon was an opportunity to do more geospatial work on Lucene,” said Nick. “Once I got there, my responsibility became to bring open source, the open source way of working and the culture, to the ODFE [Open Distro for Elasticsearch] team. When Elastic decided to change the license for Elasticsearch from open source to SSPL, we forked it to maintain a true open source code base. My focus at Amazon since then has been to keep them being good open source stewards.”

Building an OCV open charter company

Throughout his career, Nick has always had a strong inclination towards open source. “What’s attractive to me was the community aspect of open-source,” said Nick. “My philosophy is to always try to stay true to the open-source and open-core model.” Incorporating Lucenia as an open charter company was the best way to keep the company aligned with that vision according to Nick.

“At the end of the day, the open-source side is a personality. What I saw in OCV is a personality type and a DNA that very much aligned with mine,” said Nick. “The open core model is very true to my morals, my beliefs. My belief system aligns heavily with OCV. The idea of being able to partner with folks that have that same belief system is a great opportunity for me.”

While it’s Nick’s first time building a startup of his own, he’s up for the challenge. “A startup is always scary, especially when it’s a small few to start,” said Nick. “But I do know a lot of people that align with this that I think would love to come on board. I’m excited for that part—to be able to see who wants to join us and hopefully welcome them in and try to grow something here.”

Lucenia is currently hiring for multiple roles.