Neeva — led by Google vets — raises $40m to build an ad-free search engine

Neeva is trying to build a privacy-first search engine from scratch. It’s got the right team for the job.

March 11, 2021

Sridhar Ramaswamy spent 15 years building Google’s ad division. Vivek Raghunathan spent about a dozen monetizing Google Search and YouTube. The guys are Google legends…

… And competitors, too.

Their startup Neeva — fresh off a $40m Series B — is building a subscription-based, ad-free search engine from the ground up.

This time around, they’re focused on 3 things…

… Privacy, privacy, and — no, not privacy — a better user experience.

Ramaswamy believes ad-supported search pushes relevant results down the page and pressures companies to value profit over privacy.

So for $5 to $10 a month, Neeva offers ad-free search across the web and connected accounts, and promises to prioritize site users’ trust.

The funding comes at the right time

Recent studies have shown sentiment toward ad tracking is less than ideal.

A 2019 Pew survey found:

  • 72% of people believe their online movements are tracked by advertisers
  • 81% feel they have little to no control over what data companies collect
  • 81% think the risks of data collection outweigh the benefits

Ramaswamy has also pushed for more competition in the search space, where Google holds a mildly impressive 92% market share.

Google just made a big announcement…

saying that it wouldn’t build new tools for individualized tracking once it halts support for 3rd-party cookies next year, citing the Pew study in its decision process.

And Neeva isn’t alone in privacy-focused search. DuckDuckGo has raised $13m and is averaging ~100m daily search queries (Google does an absurd 5B+ searches a day).

Sure, Neeva going after Goliath Google is ambitious. But if anyone is going to make a dent in the search game, the people who spent their careers building Google probably have the best shot.

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