Yandex leads $30M round in slash tag hero blekko

Faith Merino · September 29, 2011 · Short URL:

The search optimizer adds Yandex to its long list of notable investors

Slash tag search optimizer blekko is making some big new friends overseas.  The company announced Thursday that it has just raised a $30 million round of funding led by none other than Russian search behemoth Yandex, with help from Australian firm MLC Private Equity, bringing the company’s total raised to $55 million.

Founded in 2007, blekko has caught the eye of several notable investors, from firms such as Baseline Ventures, US Venture Partners, and CMEA, to individual investors such as Marc Andreessen and Ashton Kutcher.  CEO Rich Skrenta declined to comment on what kind of stake the investment gives Yandex, other than to say that “Yandex is a great strategic partner.  They have deep experience in search.”

At the time of its IPO, Yandex accounted for 64% of the Russian search market, compared to Google’s 22%.  But the search giant isn’t limited to Russia.  It also has offices in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Turkey, and the United States (Yandex opened a Palo Alto office back in 2008).

Despite Yandex’s dominance in Russia, Blekko isn’t really interested in launching a Russian-language version of its service, according to Skrenta, who told me that blekko’s goal is “primarily English-language search.”

Blekko and Yandex made one another’s acquaintance at a conference in Moscow earlier this year, where founder and CTO Greg Lindahl was presenting.  Now, just ten months after launch, blekko is joining hands with one of the largest search engines in the world.

Why is it getting so much love from so many big-name investors?  Because blekko did what Google’s Panda should’ve done a long time ago: it weeds out the spam and content farms to deliver the most relevant search results.  Blekko has blocked over 1.1 million websites from its search results and has reported over 110,000 human-curated slash tags. 

Last month, blekko saw 1.2 million unique users.  Skrenta says that the company has not begun to monetize, so there’s nothing to report yet in the way of revenue.

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