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MONEY

Upstart Search Engine Blekko Receives $30 Million

Several investors, including some notable celebrities, are banking on the spam-free search engine to compete against Bing, Yahoo, and Google.

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MOVE OVER GOOGLE Blekko uses search filters known as "slashtags," which rely on actual humans to curate the most useful results under frequently searched topics.

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Upstart search engine Blekko has closed a $30 million funding round in its quest to be the spam-free Google.

Yandex, the most popular search engine in Russia, has invested $15 million and promised to share its servers and other technology. It's the first time the Russian company has invested in a U.S. search engine. Blekko's other $15 million comes from a group composed mostly of earlier investors: U.S Venture Partners, CMEA Capital and PivotNorth Capital. (Other notable investors: Ashton Kutcher, who kicked in $200,000 in January, and Marc Andreesen.)

Blekkothe name was a placeholder the company eventually decided would do just fineoffers search results only from trustworthy sites, claiming to show only the best results. This it does through the use of search filters known as "slashtags," which rely on actual humans to curate the most useful results under frequently searched topics.

Yandex is particularly interested in Blekko's search algorithms.

“We love Blekko and think it’s a great producta quality search engine that organically combines search algorithms with expert opinions," said Yandex CEO Arkady Volozh, who will join Blekko's board of directors, in a statement. "We believe the outlook for this approach is strong and that the Blekko team is poised to make it a success."

Redwood Shores, Calif-based Blekko has 27 employees, including former Google and Yahoo! engineers. It was founded in 2007 and launched in November 2010.

Yandex had a lackluster U.S. initial public offering in May. The stock was priced at $25, and peaked at $42.01 on its first day of trading. It closed at $20.46 Friday.

Blekko founder Rich Skrenta is hoping the infusion of cash eventually will bring more people to choose Blekko over Bing and Yahoo as a Google alternative.

"People are rooting for the underdog in this space," Skrenta told the Associated Press.

Skrenta's claims to fame include writing the Elk Cloner virus, the first big computer virus ever created. This was in 1982, when Skrenta was in high school.

Last updated: Oct 3, 2011

Inc. contributing editor COURTNEY RUBIN was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.




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