Blekko: Enjoying Its Role as Underdog

Blekko has always tried to be the anti-Google; its “slash the web” design is tailored to deliver more targeted search results, and the search engine has placed an emphasis on offering spam-free searchers for its users.  Founder Rich Skrenta says, “People are rooting for the underdog in this space.”  With a recent $30 million infusion of cash, however, it is hard to think of Blekko as the “little guy.”  Skrenta and his team are hoping this will help them top other alternative engines , including Bing.

Russia’s most popular search engine, Yandex, invested $15 million in Blekko and will share servers and other infrastructure in exchange for a minority stake in the company.  Arkadv Volzh, Yandex CEO, says, “We love Blekko and think it’s a great product – a quality search engine that organically combines search algorithms with expert opinions.”  It is the algorithms that particularly catch Volzh’s eye.  Venture capitalists kicked in the other $15 million, making it a very big payday for the small engine.

A few years ago, Blekko would have fared very poorly in the search engine game; it might not have lived long past its launch.  Even today, Google can claim over two-thirds of the traditional search market.  The difference is that search is not as traditional as it used to be.  According to Mat Asay in the UK Register, the traditional “market is increasingly playing second fiddle to a host of other new online services…” including Blekko, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, Expedia, and other services.  Searchers are increasingly relying on vertical search products to do specific searches.  You want to look for a professional, go to LinkedIn. You want to research a vacation, go to TravelPlanet.

Blekko has done well because it is light and agile, especially compared with the aging infrastructure in place at Google.  It may no longer be fair to call it the underdog; it may be the new norm.

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