DuckDuckGo – Gabriel Weinberg Interview

"At DuckDuckGo we believe in better search and real privacy at the same time."

Gabriel Weinberg

Gabriel is the CEO and Founder of DuckDuckGo, a search engine. Previously he founded NamesDatabase, which was sold to Classmates.com in 2006. Weinberg was educated at MIT, with a B.S. in Physics and an M.S. in Technology and Policy. He is also an active angel investor and blogger.  

Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us something that can’t be found in your public bio. What’s your story?

Hi! Glad to be here. I've been doing Internet startups since college, and am an active angel investor and parent. I have two young kids (under 4). For the first two years of my son Eli's life I was a stay-at-home dad while my wife worked full-time.  I spent all in-between moments coding on DuckDuckGo.  

You’re the founder of DuckDuckGo, an internet search engine.  Tell us about the work you’re doing there and what inspired you to start a company that would go up against Google and Bing? How are you different?

At DuckDuckGo we believe in better search and real privacy at the same time. We focus on things the big guys won't do, generally for business reasons. We don't track our users for one. On the better search side, we have way more instant answers, which we call goodies: https://duckduckgo.com/goodies/. These are multiplying as we have an open source platform for developers to help us improve and add them: http://duckduckhack.com/. We also more aggressively remove spam and clutter -- kind of like the way Google used to be.  

In early 2012, Google publicly acknowledged that you were one of their direct competitors. Was that a time to celebrate or prepare for battle?  

Both! It's great to be called out, but we also know we have a long way to go to make a real dent in the search engine space.  

You’ve had two very successful exits: one with The Name Database as founder and the other with Notehall.com as an investor/director. How has your experience with both of those companies helped you with DuckDuckGo? Is the goal to overtake Google or do you have an exit strategy?

Those experiences enabled me to be much more fearless with DuckDuckGo. Our goal is not to overtake Google, however, nor are we looking to the exits. The goal is to continue to provide a unique and compelling alternative that appeals to a significant percentage of people, and turn that into a sustainable business that doesn't compromise our founding principles.  

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

Patience, persistence, analytical thinking.  

How would you define success? Have you achieved it?

I view success in a holistic manner. My primary professional goal is to do things that are unique and interesting, and I feel I've been doing that so far. The other side is family and friends, and I'm very happy there too, though I could definitely do better at keeping in touch.  

What does your typical day look like?

Wake up around 6 with the kids for a couple of hours, then take my son to pre-school at 8.  Go into the office, and do a lot of different things (strategy, coding, feedback, calls, etc.). Lunch is in there with whoever else is in the office that day. 4pm pick up at pre-school, and play with the kids with my wife until bed time a bit after 7 (dinner in there somewhere). Then catch up on stuff (like this interview!) until bedtime around 10, often with the TV in the background.  

Having a young family at home, being director of myZamana, Inc and running DuckDuckGo how do you keep a healthy work/life balance?

See typical day answer :). It's tough, but I like keeping a schedule, even if anything could happen within the individual blocks. In short, by putting enough time into each block.  

What entrepreneurs do you admire the most?

People with big visions who bootstrap because they have to and then slowly draw people into their vision.  

What has been one of your biggest failures? What did you learn from it?

My first company out of college failed miserably and I took it really hard. It was the first time I had really failed at something after putting my all into it. I primarily learned how to learn from failure generally, but more specifically to recognize what things were out of my control and what things I could influence.  

If you could have one super power, what would it be ?

Teleportation (with people I'm touching), because then I'd go more places.  

Sell us on why we should be using DuckDuckGo.  

Try it for a week! I'm confident it'll stick with you, and if not I'd love to hear why: https://duckduckgo.com/feedback.html. If you need more convincing, check out our about video: https://duckduckgo.com/about.html  

What can a new entrepreneur do to increase their probability of startup success?

I believe in serendipity, and that you can increase its probabilities of happening to you and your startup. To do so, you have to not operate at capacity all the time, be willing to seize micro-opportunities, and stay around long enough for enough of them to come by you.  

Where are you located?  

Valley Forge, PA

duck

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One Comment

Becky Riley

Gabe….Your previous next-door neighbors are so proud of you !!!!!! (The Riley’s) Ches said…”I knew when Gabe was teaching me my multiplication tables when he was 4 yrs. old, that he was something special”! Kudos to you !!!! Becky Riley

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EverGonzalez
Ever Gonzalez

Co-founder & CEO @ Outlier