DuckDuckGo just announced that Union Square Ventues is leading the company's first round of funding. Other investors include: Scott Banister, Jim Young, Jeff Miller, Joshua Schachter, Kal Vapuri, Joshua Stylman and Peter Hershberg.
In a Union Square Ventures blog post, Brad Burnham writes:
When I first got into the venture capital business in the early 90s, it seemed to me that half of the deals I brought to the partnership were dismissed with the line "sure it's cool but what the heck do they do if Microsoft decides to enter this business." Today the role of the dominant player is played by Google (and increasingly Facebook). So as an investor, one has to consider how a potential portfolio company can thrive in the shadow of Google. No where is this more true than in Search.
So, as you can imagine, we had a lot of interesting conversations in the process of evaluating our latest investment in Gabriel Weinberg's alternative search engine,DuckDuckGo. Our confidence in Gabriel and DuckDuckGo is informed by having watched the decline of Microsoft's hegemony in the 90's. Two things happened that fundamentally changed the game: a shift in venue and a shift in business model. The venue moved from the desktop to the web and the business model shifted from packaged software to open source. It turned out that the way to compete with Microsoft was to not to compete, at least not directly. The way to compete with Microsoft was to change the basis of competition. We invested in DuckDuckGo because we became convinced that it was not only possible to change the basis of competition in search, it was time to do it.
It seems as though Union Square sees something in DuckDuckGo that reminds them of when Google entered the scene. "The company is young and under staffed so there are definitely holes Gabriel hopes to fill, but his observation that "traditional algorithmic signals are not the only authority on the web," and his clever use of real authorities to curate search results makes Duck Duck Go an interesting alternative to your everyday brand," Burnham says.
Here's an interview we did with Weinberg earlier this year, where he makes the case for DuckDuckGo (vs. Google):
In a post on his own blog, Weinberg says:
As these things have started to click, the list of obvious ways to fruitfully extend DuckDuckGo has grown rapidly (e.g. more sources, vertical goodies, etc.). In fact, the list has far outstripped our capacity to build them in reasonable time given current resources.
We've been trying to address this issue from a number of angles. We leverage external APIs as heavily as possible. We've been slowly open sourcing things and recruiting developers to help us integrate data and goodies. (If this piques your interest, start here!)
He notes that the company has already begun building its team, and expects to be able to build on that significantly with the new funding.
The amount of the funding is unclear.