Two Indian-origin ex-Google employees all set to launch an ad-free search engine


From the time of its inception, Google has faced several worthy competitors, yet none of them have come close to overtaking it. With 90% of the search market, Google is the dominated the internet like no other.

However, lately, the company has been coming under fire in many countries for various reasons, particularly in regards to privacy policies and the selling of our data.

In order to address this issue, now two Indian-based entrepreneurs from California are launching a new search engine that is touted to be ad-free and offer private searches.

Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan, IIT alumni and ex-employees at Google, will launch “Neeva”, a search engine developed to protect our data from the marketing companies and offer the privacy we seek. However, this luxury will come with a certain price, as the developers have said that it will be a paid product.

Neeva is planned to be rolled out by the middle of 2021, and hopes to offer a customer-first alternative, at a time of growing concerns over the control wielded by tech megaliths.

Ramasamy has the expertise in this area, as he has served as the senior vice-president of ads and commerce at Google, and has also run its travel, shopping and search infrastructure teams. And Raghunathan was the vice-president of Monetization at YouTube.

“We built Neeva to feel like your personal corner of the web, designed specifically for you always ad-free and private. Our mission is to serve our users, and only our users,” said the founders.

“The ad model has been great for bringing search to everyone on the planet, but over time, there is more and more pressure to show more ads and not really what the user wants. Our thesis is that we can create a much better search product, focusing solely on what a customer needs,” says Ramaswamy, the CEO of Neeva, speaking on a video call from his California home.

Neeva is an ad-free search engine that requires a subscription to use. It can be linked to personal accounts like Microsoft Office, Dropbox, or Google. Outside of just searching the web, users will also be able to search their personal documents such as emails, presentations, and more.

The company says that the upcoming search engine will allow users to directly search for personal data stored on services like Dropbox and email accounts. It will use AI and machine learning similar to Google to provide a personalized experience; however, it guarantees that “the product and company are designed so that personal data is indexed to serve your results and for nothing else.

Ramaswamy says, “The relentless pressure to maintain Google’s growth, he said, had come at a heavy cost to the company’s users. Useful search results were pushed down the page to squeeze in more advertisements, and privacy was sacrificed for online tracking tools to keep tabs on what ads people were seeing.”

With a 45-person team in the US, the plan is to roll out Neeva in “four-five months”, first in the home market of the US and then in English-speaking regions like Western Europe, Australia and India.

“Fortunately, we have a great team of engineers, designers and product managers, and very good backers,” says Ramaswamy.

So far, Neeva has raised $37.5 million with equal investments from Greylock, Sequoia Capital and Ramaswamy himself.

Neeva will initially be free and then cost “less than $10 per month,” with the ambition of lowering the price as more subscribers join. Search is the gateway to the world’s information, and Neeva helps you experience the Internet in a new way free of distractions, prying eyes and frustration.

About users’ data security and personal data, Ramaswamy says, we guarantee that the product and the company are designed in such a way that personal data is indexed only for better results, and not for any purpose.

We have formed a company for customers only. We want to ensure that it is a revenue source company. The company also says that the data will never be sold in any form. And the search history will be removed by default after 90 days.

Having spent 16 years at Google, Ramaswamy says he has come to believe that it is “just not healthy” to have very large tech platforms control so much. “There are good people there, that’s not the issue. If you need to make more money, the temptation to show one more ad is just very strong,” he says, adding that what Neeva provides is a choice. “And giving this choice creates a richer Internet.”