Gabriel Weinberg Biography
Gabriel Weinberg is the CEO and founder of DuckDuckGo, a search engine. Weinberg was born in 1979 in the District, and grew up in Atlanta, the capital of and the most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia. His father is a physician and infectious-disease specialist, and his mother makes art and clothes. Weinberg was interested in computers and programming since he was young, and because of that, he taught himself to be a child hacker. His first job was building his mother a program to process orders on the internet.
Gabriel Weinberg Education
In his middle and high school years, Weinberg excelled in science classes, especially Physics. Weinberg that played soccer and tennis as his favorite sports, spent a lot of time messing with his computers in his spare times. When he graduated high school, Weinberg took Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but didn’t want to pursue it in graduate school. As one thing led to another, he eventually returned to his old hobby: programming.
Gabriel Weinberg Career
With the money he has saved, Gabriel Weinberg started thinking about founding another company while his wife worked and he captained the house. The idea was to create a search engine that may pit against the more mature, bigger, more powerful, more sophisticated and more advanced search engines like Google and Bing. When he asked his wife for her opinion, she thought that he was nuts. “She was like, ‘What are you doing?’'” Weinberg said. “She thought the idea was crazy.”
His wife’s theory was hard to deny. Thinking of a startup that is willing to grow by taking on the ‘big boys’ like Google in the search industry, is like a raft taking on a cruise ship as an option for vacation. But Weinberg’s mind was fixed. Despite his wife’s impression that was not at all supportive, Weinberg continued developing his idea.
Google’s way of making money; its place where products are mostly capitalized by games created by marketers; its pages that are cluttered with ads; search queries that are tracked, logged and personalized, occupied his mind. And for that, he wanted to create an ‘alternative’.
“My thesis for the company was, what can we do that other search engines, because they’re big, can’t do easily?” said Weinberg. “Because what’s good for Google business is bad for Google users.”
The company was based at his home until 2011 when he raised $3 million investment from Union Square Ventures. With the money on his hands, Weinberg opened his new five-room, home-styled office in the suburban of Paoli, Philadelphia; not far from Valley Forge and Bravo Pizza. The building is looking more ‘odd’ that it is an office with the looks of a stone castle. Weinberg and his programmers occupy the second floor while an eye doctor occupies the first floor.
The startup office is not at all flashy. The working place is kept practical with no stuffs that most startups have. “I’ve always been pretty cheap,” he said. “We’re pretty practical around here.” Being practical doesn’t mean there is no rule. But it allows one of the programmers to occasionally bring his dog, Hex.
Weinberg’s idea for a search engine project is called DuckDuckGo, after the children’s game Duck, Duck, Goose. The website was first launched on September 25th, 2008.
Gabriel Weinberg Age
Born On January 1,1979 He is 40 years of age as of 2019.
Gabriel Weinberg Entrepreneur Net Worth
His exact Networth is Still Under Review.
Gabriel Weinberg Interview
Weinberg, 40, runs DuckDuckGo, an eight-year-old search engine based near Philadelphia that is a David to Google’s Goliath. With a staff of 40 contractors and full-timers, DuckDuckGo hosts 3 billion searches a year, compared to Google’s trillion-plus. Its primary selling point is that it offers real privacy because it does not track searches or store users’ history. Weinberg, who wrote a 2014 book, Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers, that suggests ways to market new companies, says DuckDuckGo’s 2015 revenues exceeded $1 million (Google’s were $74.5 billion). In this interview, which has been condensed and edited, he describes the multiple ventures he started and shuttered, the two that succeeded and the many lessons he learned along the way.
Susan Adams: What did you do before you started DuckDuckGo?
Gabriel Weinberg: As soon as I got out of MIT in 2000, I started an educational software company, Learnection, which was a terrible name. It was a social networking endeavor aimed at increasing parental involvement in schools. But it was way too early
Adams: How did you fund the business?
Weinberg: I finished school in three years. But I was lucky and my grandmother had left me tuition money for four years of college. I used that and I raised some friends and family money. I lost all of it, between $30,000 and $45,000.
Adams: What did you do wrong?
Weinberg: Lots of things. I hired friends because I liked them but they were the wrong kind of people to hire. I only paid them $1,000 and they left after a year. I failed to make decisions quickly. I spent a lot of time engineering a project that wasn’t useful in the market.
Adams: What did you do next?
Weinberg: I started another four to six companies of various kinds. One was a success. It was an early social networking company. The product was called NamesDatabase. It was a way to find old classmates and friends. It’s a completely anachronistic concept now, given Facebook, but this was between 2003 and 2006. I sold it to classmates.com in 2006 for $10 million.
Adams: What did you do right?
Weinberg: I focused on what I write about in my book. We had users before we even had a product.
Adams: How did you get people to sign up for a product that didn’t exist?
Weinberg: I was trying all these different side projects. One day I decided to make up pages of fake names, taking first and last names from popular names tracked by the Census. I just made pages of these names on the hunch that people would be searching for names on the Internet. Back then it took Google six months to index things. Six months later I had completely forgotten about it. Then all of a sudden this random site I put up started getting 10,000 searches a day. People were searching for other people and my site was coming up first. At the beginning I just put a link at the top and sent the person to another site that said, sign up for this product. We didn’t have a product yet but people started signing up anyway.
Adams: What lessons did you learn from that success?
Weinberg: Right after we realized we had a good idea, we focused mainly on how to continue to grow and get more users and have them refer each other. Most people do the opposite. They end up launching, they realize they still have a leaky-bucket product and they have no idea how to get customers. In the book we advocate spending half your time on traction, which means getting customers, and half the time on product development. In this company we flipped that on its head. We spent almost all our time on how to get customers and zero time on product development. Which isn’t good but you can have some success if you have customers and no product.
Adams: How did that lead to DuckDuckGo?
Weinberg: I realized that one of the reasons we didn’t spend time on the product was I wasn’t that interested in it. I’m not a big social networker. I realized I wanted to work on something I am actually excited about and could see myself working on for a decade or more. But I couldn’t figure out what that was. For the next year and a half I tried out a bunch of companies and products.
Adams: What did you try?
Weinberg: I started a Meetup.com competitor. I started a golf social network which was super bone-headed because I don’t golf. I also started a genealogy site.
Adams: How did you settle on DuckDuckGo?
Weinberg: Search is really appealing to me because you essentially have infinite space. People can type in anything and you need to return something interesting and ideally answer the question without having to click around. The Internet has exploded with all these different sources, with Wikipedia being the one people think about first. Bringing together those sites in an interesting way appealed to me and still does.
Adams: Didn’t you think it was insane to try to start a competitor to Google?
Weinberg: I started out not by trying to start a competitor. I just started trying to improve my Google results. There was removing spam. Back at that time, there were a lot of bad results. I was also adding in a bunch of instant answers. Wikipedia wasn’t coming up at the top so I added that. I thought both of those added value and if I could get the regular links to improve as well, that would be good. Then I added privacy to that. I backed into it. I didn’t think about it from a business perspective at the time. I initially put it out there to see if other people would like it.
Adams: You said Learnection was a terrible name. How did you come up with DuckDuckGo?
Weinberg: It popped into my head one day on a walk with my wife. Historically my naming has been less than stellar, and when my wife liked it (the first time in my recollection) I said I would use it for something. This was all pre-DuckDuckGo. Then when I started working on a search engine, it felt like it kind of fit and so I went with it.
Adams: How did you figure out that it could be a business?
Weinberg: I launched DuckDuckGo at the end of 2008, and in March of 2009 my first son was born and I decided to stay at home with him for at least the first two years. Through those two years I just kept at it and tinkering with it. At the end of 2010 all the iterative work on the project became better. Something clicked and people started to switch to it. Then in 2011 I started to treat it as more of a real thing, and at the end of 2011 I went and raised $3 million from Union Square Ventures.
Adams: How did you sell it to your investors?
Weinberg: The premise I had was very much an analogy to a web browser. The underlying technology had reached maturity and you could differentiate it based on other factors like design and add-ons. I felt the same thing was happening with search. The links weren’t changing that much. Yahoo and MSN search were very similar. There was room for some differentiation. That included privacy, design and instant answers.
Adams: I tried asking both Google and DuckDuckGo a simple question: Who won the Super Bowl? Google told me it was the Denver Broncos, while the top result on DuckDuckGo was a headline about who won the Super Bowl “ad smackdown.”
Weinberg: Instant answers is a hard problem. Google gives them about a third of the time and we give them about a third of the time. It’s the dream to get to 80% of the time.
Adams: What’s your big selling point now?
Weinberg: We don’t track you. When you search on DuckDuckGo, you’re completely anonymous. Since Snowden and other revelations about tracking on the Internet, people have tried us out. Ultimately we also think we’re a better search experience. We have a cleaner design and we think it’s more fun.
Adams: This may be naïve of me to ask, but what are you protecting me from?
Weinberg: Several things. Those ads that follow you around the Internet are significantly reduced. Another more pernicious think is that people are building profiles of you and targeting you. Not only do ads follow you but prices will change. As a consumer, your digital footprint is significantly reduced if you use DuckDuckGo. Also we don’t know who you are so we’re not tailoring our results to you. That means that when you’re doing political research, when you go to Google, they’ll show you links they think you want to click on. That includes very few opposing viewpoints. If you’re a Democrat, you’ll see an MSNBC article and not a Fox article.
Adams: Google has an “Incognito” option that claims not to store cookies and search history. Isn’t that just as good as DuckDuckGo?
Weinberg: Incognito is a complete myth. It doesn’t stop anyone from tracking you. It only erases stuff on your computer so someone like your spouse can’t see it. [A Google spokeswoman says that cookies and site visit activity from Incognito sessions aren’t saved after the session ends.]
Adams: Even if you do some things better than Google, how can you possibly make money?
Weinberg: We make money the same way other search engines make money. When you type in “car,” you get a car ad. We syndicate Microsoft and Yahoo ads through the Microsoft Yahoo Search Alliance.
Adams: What share of the ad revenues does DuckDuckGo get?
Weinberg: That’s confidential.
Adams: All the businesses I talk to say they advertise on Google, and no one ever mentions Yahoo.
Weinberg: There are only two big ad feeds. There’s Google and then there’s Microsoft Yahoo. Microsoft Yahoo is cheaper and it gets you in front of yet more customers. A lot of the time companies go through agencies that do both and the client doesn’t even realize they’re doing it.
Adams: Your book suggests 19 different ways to get customers. How did you do it at DuckDuckGo?
Weinberg: The book says that when a company is in a growth stage, it primarily relies on one channel to drive that growth. In a sophisticated situation it might be multiple channels feeding into that channel. When one channel tops off, you reach diminishing returns and you have to switch channels. We’ve had to do that five times.
Adams: Tell me about the five channels.
Weinberg: We started out using search engine optimization. That meant people going to Google and typing in, “new search engine.” That worked well. But there weren’t that many people doing that. Then we switched to content marketing. In our case it started with a blog where we built up an audience. Then we switched to a strategy called microsites. We put out sites with information on educational privacy sites and search privacy.
Adams: How many freelancers did you hire to produce the content?
Weinberg: For the first three-and-a-half years it was all me. We only had four sites.
Adams: What came next?
Weinberg: PR. First it was online and then we focused on print and then on TV.
Adams: Did you hire a publicist?