For more than three years now, the French startup Qwant has been trying to prove that a search engine can be efficient and profitable while respecting the privacy and anonymity of users. After a slow and difficult start, Qwant is finally taking off. Six months ago the search engine had 8 million visitors. That number shot up to 21 million this May.
Eric Leandri, the co-founder and director of Qwant, is confident: "We now count on an increase of 15% to 20% every month." Half the startup’s users are in France while 30% of them live in Germany. The company, which has offices and servers in Paris and a development team in the French city of Nice, employs 60 people. The startup’s presence in Germany is assured by media group Springer, which holds 20% of the company’s shares and is an important technical partner. Although Qwant may be a small player compared to search giant Google, which has a firm grip on the European market, Leandri says that Qwant’s usage figures are encouraging. He attributes interest in his startup to Europeans who don’t want to be subjected to mass surveillance by U.S. internet giants and who seek alternatives.