Investors are browsing for Chromium startups

A few months ago, we declared that “browsers are interesting again,” thanks to increased competition among the major players. Now, as more startups are getting onboard, things are getting downright exciting.

A small but growing number of projects are building web browsers with a more specific type of user in mind. Whether that perceived user is prioritizing improved speed, organization or toolsets aligned with their workflow, entrepreneurs are building these projects with the assumption that Google’s one-size-fits-all approach with Chrome leaves plenty of users with a suboptimal experience.

Building a modern web browser from scratch isn’t the most feasible challenge for a small startup. Luckily open-source projects have enabled developers to build their evolved web browsers on the bones of the apps they aim to compete with. For browsers that are not Safari, Firefox, Chrome or a handful of others, Google’s Chromium open-source project has proven to be an invaluable asset.

Since Google first released Chrome in late 2008, the company has also been updating Chromium. The source code powers the Microsoft Edge and Opera web browsers, but also allows smaller developer teams to harness the power of Chrome when building their own apps.

These upstart browsers have generally sought to compete with the dominant powers on the privacy front, but as Chrome and Safari have begun shipping more features to help users manage how they are tracked online, entrepreneurs are widening their product ambitions to tackle usability upgrades.

Aiding these heightened ambitions is increased attention on custom browsers from investors. Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich’s Brave has continued to scale, announcing last month they had 5 million daily active users of their privacy-centric browser.

Today, Thrive Capital’s Josh Miller spoke with TechCrunch about his project The Browser Company which has raised $5 million from some notable Silicon Valley operators. Other hot upstart efforts include Mighty, a subscription-based, remote-streamed Chrome startup from Mixpanel founder Suhail Doshi, and Blue Link Labs, a recent entrant that’s building a decentralized peer-to-peer browser called Beaker browser.


As front-end developers have gotten more ambitious and web applications have gotten more complex, Chrome has earned the reputation of being quite the RAM hog.

Mighty is building a $20/month version of Google Chrome that is completely remote-rendered, streaming the app from a server farm, offloading a user’s memory-intensive and battery-consuming network of browser tabs in the process, allowing users to run 100 tabs without bogging down their CPUs. Doshi tells TechCrunch that the startup’s browser can decrease Chrome’s CPU usage by 10 times.

“This is a new kind of technology entirely and it’s really hard to build. It’s not a simple reskin of a browser or a couple new UI/UX flourishes that anyone can copy,” Doshi said in a text conversation. “Our focus is making a few users really happy and we’re getting very close to something we’ll start deploying widely. Probably within the next 6 months.”

Mighty’s tiny team of five has a small network of beta users onboard already. In its early releases, the startup is focusing heavily on optimizing for users of more complex workplace apps like design software Figma. The team hasn’t publicly shared early investors beyond Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator.

Beaker Browser

Blue Link Labs Founder Paul Frazee wants to build a browser for web hackers and enthusiasts in the decentralized computing space, enabling users to “own” the applications they use, remixing and tweaking web platforms to meet their needs.

His startup’s product, Beaker Browser, is a decentralized peer-to-peer web browser that is decidedly niche in its current scope, aiming to satiate users who want to be in charge of their own experience on the web. Frazee’s long-term goal is for the product to find mainstream appeal, though he admits the path to that goal isn’t something he has entirely figured out. The company released a public beta of the browser and a “reimagined” version of its protocol in May.

“We’re really looking for a way to have something that’s a little more user-driven, taking personal computing and bringing back the idea that everybody is running their own computer and running their own data and could interact with each other directly rather than doing it through middlemen,” Frazee told TechCrunch in an interview.

Frazee tells TechCrunch the Austin-based startup has raised just around $200,000 to date from angel investors, including Anaconda co-founder Peter Wang. The startup currently has three employees.

The Browser Company

Another browser startup gathering buzz is being built by the Obama White House’s former director of product Josh Miller. Today, we reported that his effort, called The Browser Company, has raised $5 million in funding thus far from investors that include Medium’s Ev Williams, LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner, GitHub’s Jason Warner, Figma’s Dylan Field and the Slack Fund.

Miller is awfully coy about what The Browser Company is building exactly, an effort he says is to prevent competitors with more money and engineers from taking their ideas. What he does allude to is a browser that doesn’t treat the web as a big collection of documents and is “opinionated” on how users surf the web with their product.

“Our view is that everything is not the same. When you’re shopping, it’s not the same as when you’re using GitHub and so on and so forth,” Miller told TechCrunch in an interview. “I think the fundamental thesis of our company is that the desktop browser should be more of an operating system and less of a tool to surf the internet.”

The company is still in its very early stages, but Miller says they hope to open the product to more early testers later this year.

Brave Software

For Chrome competitors built on Chromium, privacy-centric features have been a key selling point.

Perhaps, the most recognizable “startup browser” of late has been the Brave browser. The startup founded by former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich has raised quite a bit of cash on the promise that it can create a more speedy and power-efficient browser by working to strip your web experience of trackers.

Brave has gotten plenty of attention from investors. The team raised a seed round led by Founders Fund in 2015. Last year, Coindesk reported that Brave was looking to raise between $30-$50 million at a $133 million valuation. The company also had a hugely successful ICO in 2017, raising $35 million worth of Ether tokens in about 30 seconds as part of their “Basic Attention Token” sale.

Last month, Brave shared that it now has 5 million daily active users.