The Power & Potential of Private, Ad-free Search

Today we are excited to announce our investment in Neeva, an ad-free and deeply personal consumer-focused search service built with privacy at the foundation.

Search is among the most important and fundamental tools of modern life, powering exchanges between billions of people. But we’ve become resigned to the fact that using this technology comes with a tradeoff: It’s almost always ad-supported, so we need to shift through a ton of ads before we get to organic results. And ads almost always imply tracking of our behavior everywhere.

Perhaps no one understands this tradeoff – and how we got here – better than Neeva co-founders Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan. Prior to joining Greylock in 2018, Sridhar spent 15 years at Google running Advertising and Commerce, where he oversaw the evolution of foundational products including search, payments, shopping, analytics, and display and video advertising. Vivek was a star engineer in the search ads team, and an early lead on what is the Google Assistant today. He was also the leader of the Youtube ads team which made more than $15b in 2019.

Sridhar and Vivek are talented leaders who built and scaled many teams at Google. Both were instrumental in developing Google’s advertising business into the company’s largest source of revenue.

But along the way, they saw the unintentional but inevitable outcome of focusing on both users and advertisers: the interests of the two groups are often at odds with one another. This is precisely why we believe they have the authority and credibility to build an alternative: a search product with only one customer in mind – the user.

Neeva aims to decouple the elements of our relationship with search that have led to that misalignment of interests. The subscription-based service, which is currently in beta, is always ad-free and never tracks users across the internet. Neeva users also have the option to integrate their personal information – email, documents, calendar and more – into the platform, creating a personalized web of data that is only used to serve results most relevant to them.

Both of us are proud to be on the company’s board. We are also delighted to be partnering with our friends Bill Coughran and Jim Goetz; Greylock and Sequoia co-led the company’s Series A round. (Sridhar shared some insight about Neeva in this Q&A on the Greylock blog.)

It has been a privilege to work with Sridhar and Vivek as they have developed this bold, ambitious idea into an early formidable company with huge potential. Greylock has a long history of partners who founded and incubated companies at the firm, and we are fortunate to have had a front-row vantage to Neeva. The company, which Sridhar began working on a few months after joining Greylock in 2018, was initially housed in our Menlo Park office, and our talent team helped recruit many of the early Neeva employees. We are consistently impressed with the company’s intellectual rigor, clear communication, and impeccable attention to detail. It’s an all-star team with high processing power and a commitment to win.

Reimagining search while eschewing the very revenue-generating mechanism that has made the other platforms so profitable underscores Neeva’s commitment to rebuilding consumer trust. It’s a daring, audacious venture. But as we’ve learned over five decades in venture capital, the most valuable ideas are often the most contrarian. We believe the Neeva team has the rare combination of raw intellectual horsepower, unparalleled experience, and mission-driven ethos needed to succeed.