The Startup Sit Down: DuckDuckGo and Start Your New (Search) Engine

Gabriel Weinberg is the founder of DuckDuckGo, a search engine that relieves the pain points we find in the major search engine players… we’re talkin’ ‘bout you Google and Bing!


Seriously cool features include:


  • NO Tracking- DuckDuckGo does not collect or share your personal info. Excellent.
  • NO Bubbling- DuckDuckGo does not customize search results based on your Web history. Rad.
  • !Bang Syntax– This feature allows you to search hundreds of engines or query types at the same time. Perfect.


I caught up with Gabriel for the first edition of The Startup Sit Down, to get the scoop on the life and times of DuckDuckGo, the inspiration behind the startup’s hatching, and how pool parties keep up team morale.




What’s DuckDuckGo all about and what makes it stand out from the competition?

Gabriel Weinberg: DuckDuckGo is a general search engine. We focus on having way more instant answers, way less spam/clutter and real privacy.


Tell us a little about where you’re coming from.

GW: I grew up in Atlanta, GA and went to MIT. After college, I went right into Internet startups. After several failed projects, I ran a successful company that was sold in 2006. That was all in Boston. Then I moved to Philadelphia where I live now and where I started DuckDuckGo.


How was DuckDuckGo hatched, and what really sparked the inspiration?

GW: I was pursuing a number of projects around structured content, really out of personal interest. I had noticed that Google seemed to increasingly have a lot of SEO spam. I also noticed it didn’t seem to be using crowd-sourced sites like Wikipedia particularly well. So I really started out trying to launch anything that addressed those two issues.




Biggest startup surprise (good or bad) so far?

GW: I made the decision to stop storing IP addresses and by extension not track users when it was much less of a mainstream issue. I believe that when people know about the issue, like we’ve tried to educate on Don’t Track Us and Don’t Bubble Us, a large % of people agree with our point of view. However, I was surprised and am grateful that there has been an increasing amount of media attention on this subject.


One thing you would have done differently?

GW: I really don’t have any major regrets right now. You can make the argument that I should have taken DuckDuckGo more seriously earlier, and dropped everything else I was working on. It took a bit of time for it to be my 24/7 thing.


What is DuckDuckGo’s success sweet spot?

GW: I’m hoping it will be DuckDuckHack. This is our new (but a long time in the making) open source platform for developers to make instant answers plugins for the search engine. I’d love to see instant answers for the vast majority of queries.




Do you have any interesting team morale-building/stress-busting techniques?

GW: Still learning on this one :).  I think that when people have ownership of their projects and wide flexibility to attack them as they see fit, they produce the best stuff. Also, we just had a pool party!


Favorite tech tool?

GW: Multiple monitors. I’m constantly messing with the configuration, but I think a lot of screen real estate is key to my productivity. It isn’t for everyone, but I like to have a lot of server windows open.


What’s your “man, I wish I would have thought of that” startup and why?

GW: I’m more struck by things that I stopped pursuing that ended up being successful in other startups. For example, I had worked on something that worked like Tumblr/posterous many years ago, but just didn’t stick with it.


Parting words of wisdom for startup newbies and wannabies?

GW: I have a lot of long-winded advice on my blog: The short version is The shorter version is don’t overthink it–get out there and do. The shortest version is no excuses.




Thanks Gabriel for being The Startup Sit Down’s guinea pig. We’ll be sure to check out DuckDuckGo and give it a proper search shot.

Good Luck!


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