Russia's Yandex invests $15M in US search underdog

September 29, 2011 By MICHAEL LIEDTKE , AP Technology Writer

Blekko, a Silicon Valley startup trying to build a spam-free search engine, is getting some love from Russia.

Yandex, the most popular in Russia, is expressing its affinity with a $15 million investment in Blekko and a commitment to share some of its and other technology with its new U.S. partner. Blekko is getting an additional $15 million from another group consisting mostly of its earlier investors - U.S. Venture Partners, CMEA Capital and PivotNorth Capital

The alliance announced Thursday marks the first time has invested in a U.S. , according to Arkady Borkovsky, of Yandex's lab. Yandex and its 3,000 employees hope to learn more about the nuances of U.S. from Blekko.

"There could be a future for us here," Borkovsky said. "This is an interesting experiment for us and we are quite excited about it."

Yandex's investment in Blekko comes four months after the Russian company raised its profile in the U.S. with an of stock that hasn't been a big hit on Wall Street so far.

Yandex's support is a coup for Blekko, a search engine on a crusade to remove the junk that can clutter the results of market leader, Google, and its two main rivals, Yahoo and Bing.

Blekko, which employs 27 people in Redwood Shores, Calif., tries to fight the search litter, or spam, by relying on humans to use hash tags to highlight the most useful results under frequently searched topics.

Just four months after Blekko hit the market late last year, Google unveiled sweeping changes to its in an effort to reduce the rubbish showing up in its results from so-called "content farms" and other websites that had learned how to dupe Google's formula into giving a high ranking to largely irrelevant content.

Despite those changes, many of the results that Google delivers on frequently searched topics such as health remain a "train wreck," said Rich Skrenta, Blekko's CEO and founder.

Most Web surfers don't seem to have a problem with Google, which processes two out of three search requests in the U.S. Google's market dominance has held steady for years, despite challenges from Yahoo, Microsoft Corp.'s Bing and other startups, such as Cuil and Powerset, that have vowed to shake things up without leaving much of a dent.

Russia is one of the few countries where Google is a laggard. Yandex's share in Russia is almost as large as the one Google holds in the U.S., The advantage hasn't been as nearly as lucrative for Yandex, whose revenue this year is expected to be about $650 million. Google's U.S. revenue this year is expected to be between $17 billion and $18 billion.

The disparity may be one reason investors haven't been too keen on Yandex's stock since it was priced at $25 in a May IPO. The shares closed at $22.90 Wednesday. The stock peaked at $42.01 on its first day of trading.

Skrenta, though, believes Yandex can help Blekko broaden its reach and improve its results. Besides giving it more money, Yandex is letting Blekko use some of its servers. That will give Blekko the means to more than double the size of its search index, which currently spans about 3 billion Web pages on 750 servers, Skrenta said. A larger index means Blekko should be able to do a better job responding to search requests on obscure topics that currently give its search engine problems.

If it works out like Skrenta hopes, more people will start coming to Blekko when they are looking for a alternative instead of Bing and Yahoo, which together have a roughly 30 percent share of the U.S. search market.

"People are rooting for the underdog in this space," Skrenta said.

Explore further: Blekko launches human-driven search engine


Related Stories

Blekko launches human-driven search engine

November 1, 2010

(AP) -- If Google and Wikipedia were to procreate, their offspring might look something like Blekko, a new search engine with results culled by people, not computer algorithms.

Blekko, Montage offer new ways to search the Web

January 3, 2011

Internet search engines have become such a helpful fixture of everyday life that it's tough to imagine life before them. They gather information at eye-blink speed, can guess a user's intent and present real-time results ...

Microsoft finally fueling Yahoo's search engine

August 24, 2010

(AP) -- Microsoft Corp.'s technology is now processing all the search requests on Yahoo Inc.'s website in the U.S. and Canada, completing a long-awaited leap that creates a more formidable challenger to Google Inc. in the ...

Recommended for you

Your (social media) votes matter

January 24, 2017

When Tim Weninger conducted two large-scale experiments on Reddit - otherwise known as "the front page of the internet" - back in 2014, the goal was to better understand the ripple effects of malicious voting behavior and ...

Protective wear inspired by fish scales

January 24, 2017

They started with striped bass. Over a two-year period the researchers went through about 50 bass, puncturing or fracturing hundreds of fish scales under the microscope, to try to understand their properties and mechanics ...

'Droneboarding' takes off in Latvia

January 22, 2017

Skirted on all sides by snow-clad pine forests, Latvia's remote Lake Ninieris would be the perfect picture of winter tranquility—were it not for the huge drone buzzing like a swarm of angry bees as it zooms above the solid ...

Singapore 2G switchoff highlights digital divide

January 22, 2017

When Singapore pulls the plug on its 2G mobile phone network this year, thousands of people could be stuck without a signal—digital have-nots left behind by the relentless march of technology.

Making AI systems that see the world as humans do

January 19, 2017

A Northwestern University team developed a new computational model that performs at human levels on a standard intelligence test. This work is an important step toward making artificial intelligence systems that see and understand ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.