Salesforce CEO Benioff invests in search engine startup

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(Businesshala) –, a startup challenging Alphabet Inc.’s Google by developing a more customizable search engine, on Tuesday raised $20 million in venture funding led by Inc. Chief Executive Marc Benioff. announced investment.

FILE PHOTO: Salesforce President and Co-CEO Marc Benioff attends a session at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 21, 2020. Businesshala / Dennis Ballybous / FILE PHOTO

For years, venture capitalists avoided backing Google competitors because of its dominance of worldwide Internet search.

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But rising consumer privacy concerns and a resurgence of antitrust scrutiny on Google from regulators in the United States and elsewhere have some investors seen as an opening.

“We are at a turning point in the history of the Internet, and we must take steps to restore trust online,” Benioff said in a press release. He called “the future of discovery.”

Benioff’s involvement with the startup includes the transfer of the domain name, which he has owned since the 1990s.

Neither he nor Startup Url would comment on the terms of the exchange, and it was unclear whether the transfer is part of the overall investment. Beyond Benioff’s Time Ventures, other investors include Breyer Capital, Sound Ventures and Day One Ventures.

Founded last year by two former top AI scientists at Salesforce, lets users set up favorite websites. For example, users who prefer to access information from Reddit and Yelp will see rows of search results from those services before links to the broader web.

According to co-founder and CEO Richard Socher, will not track users across the web or sell “privacy-invasive advertising.” He added that the company will not log searches and clicks when users opt for Incognito Mode.

The startup aims to collect fees for facilitating transactions such as food orders or flight bookings, and seeks to help other publishers generate revenue through ads embedded in search results.

The new antitrust rules will help grow, Socher said, adding that popular browsers owned by Apple Inc. and Google in the name of security make it difficult for users to replace Google as the default search.

Reporting by Paresh Dave in Menlo Park, Calif.; Editing by Jan Harvey


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