Privacy tech continues cooking on gas. To wit: Non-tracking search engine DuckDuckGo has just revealed that it beefed up its balance sheet at the back end of last year with $100 million+ in “mainly secondary investment” — from a mix of existing and new investors. DuckDuckGo said the secondary investment allowed some of its early employees and investors to cash out a chunk of their equity while bolstering its financial position. Its blog post name checks Omers Ventures, Thrive, GP Bullhound, Impact America Fund, WhatsApp founder Brian Acton, inventor of the world wide web Tim Berners-Lee; VC and diversity activist Freada Kapor Klein; and entrepreneur Mitch Kapor as being among the participating investors. So quite the lineup.
DDG has a few other metrics to throw around now: Over the last 12 months, it said its apps were downloaded over 50 million times — more than in all prior years combined. Although it also says its business has been profitable since 2014, it is “thriving”, reporting that revenues are now running at more than $100 million annually. Hence it does not need to keep dipping into an external investor pot. Its last VC raise was in 2018 wh; when it took in $10 million after being actively pursued by Omers Ventures. They convinced it to take the money to help support growth objectives (especially internationally).
It’s also revealed that its monthly search traffic increased 55% and says market share trackers indicate that it grabbed the No. 2 spot for search engine on mobile in several countries, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands (StatCounter/Wikipedia). “We don’t track our users, so we can’t say for sure how many we have, but based on market share estimates, download numbers, and national surveys, we believe there are between 70-100 million DuckDuckGo users,” it added. A looming shift to Google’s Android choice screen in Europe, where regulators have forced the company to present users of mobile devices that run its OS with rival options when setting a default search engine, looks likely to boost DuckDuckGo’s regional fortunes further.
Google will be ditching the current paid auction model, so rivals with a valuable alternative proposition for users (like privacy) combined with strong brand awareness (and, well, everyone likes ducks…) have the best chance yet to take slices out of Google’s market share. DuckDuckGo’s blog post confirms it’ll be dialing up its marketing in Europe and other regions. “Our thriving business also gives us the resources to tell more people there is a simple solution for online privacy they can use right now. Over the last month, we’ve rolled out billboard, radio, and TV ads in 175 metro areas across the U.S., with additional efforts planned for Europe and other countries worldwide,” it notes.
So it looks like a good chunk of DDG’s secondary funding will be spent on growth marketing. As it seeks to capitalize on rising public attention to online privacy, tracking, and creepy ads, itself fuelled by years of data scandals. Awareness is also being actively driven by Apple’s recent switch to inform iOS users of third-party app tracking and give people a simple way to say no — which includes slick, Cupertino-funded ad campaigns (such as the one below) are intended to turn and engage mainstream heads.