Pro-privacy search engine DuckDuckGo, which offers an alternative to surveillance engines like Google, has quietly picked up $10M in fresh funding from Canadian pension fund Omers’ VC arm. The Globe and Mail reported the news earlier this month.
It’s only the second funding round for the ten year old company — which last picked up $3M in VC all the way back in 2011, according to Crunchbase.
In a blog post announcing the investment, Omers Ventures argues that privacy and security concerns have “risen to the forefront of public consciousness” over the past five years — noting how governments are responding to public demand and data breaches and “starting to take real action”, citing the European Union’s updated privacy framework, GDPR, as one example.
With that conviction in mind, the fund actively pursued an investment in DDG, which has been profitable (via non-tracking advertising) since 2014 so was not in need of a cash injection. And, indeed, initially refused one. But Omers persisted and was able to persuade founder Gabriel Weinberg to take the money to help support growth objectives for DDG, “particularly internationally”, and including in Canada (where the fund is based).
Expanding its privacy and security offerings is another rational for DDG taking the funding.
At the start of this year the company branched out from its core product of private (non-tracking) search — adding a tracker blocker and other privacy and security tools to create a functional bundle to help web users keep their browsing private too.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Weinberg said the focus with Omers is “to figure out how to take that globally as they’re a global pension fund”.
Asked for more detail about the plans, he told TechCrunch: “While we are already global (and have been since launch in 2008), we are now trying to focus more on specific markets: In hiring, better tuning our search engine results for local markets, and expanding the channels we use to market DuckDuckGo to have more of a global focus.”
Hiring international staff will therefore be a big part of DDG’s growth push.
“We are focused on staffing up to continue to deliver the best all-in-one privacy solution (the one we launched at the beginning of the year) and marketing, with a more particular focus on outside of the US,” he also told us.
“Our top markets (in terms of search traffic) outside the US are: DE [Germany], UK, FR [France], CA [Canada], though we have significant growth and presence in most countries in terms of relative search market share.”
Weinberg added that Omers has “a deep personal interest and investment thesis in privacy, and do believe there is an inflection point now”.