Dubai-Based Search Engine Meekd.com Raises First Funding Round
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Dubai-based global online search company meekd.com has raised its first round of seed funding for an undisclosed amount from UAE-based film production and distribution company Xmovies and an angel investor.
meekd.com, a search engine that ensure that sponsored results and paid-content are not prioritized and not ranked above real organic search results, officially launched on February 1, 2019, under its Dubai Technology Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus (Dtec)-based parent company AlphaNumeric Inc.
The company, which currently handles more than 200,000 searches per day and has become the highest ranked startup of the UAE as reported by Alexa’s Global Web Ranking, plans to use the funds to upgrade its IT infrastructure for continued product innovation and acquire talent to cope with user growth.
A model that contradicts the likes of Google, meekd’s search engine algorithm considers user “votes” to rank web pages, meekd co-founder and CEO Muhannad AlDarrai explained.
The search engine has handled a total of more than eight million searches so far and released a new set of features on August 1, 2020, he added.
These include ‘Trending News’ that delivers “news cards”, which present stories collated from different news outlets for each trending topic and are updated every 15 minutes.
“For example if the trending story right now is ‘US elections’, you will find articles written by CNN, Fox News, Gulf News, and others, covering this specific story in one news card,” he said.
Meanwhile, search results for some specific topics like ‘UAE’ and ‘Expo 2020’ are also delivered in the form of ‘Snapshot’ information cards.
“When searching for some specific topics on meekd.com, we show our users a complete summary about that specific topic in [both] text [format as well as] photos and videos,” he explained.
“For video search, we show a variety of results from different videos and social media website like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. We are working on refining further the video results to be as relevant as possible to the user’s query now that we’ve figured out how to scrape data from these websites, which no search engine is currently doing.”
meekd also has plans to add ‘Weather’ and ‘Dictionary’ features in the coming months.
The search engine was born after AlDarrai and his former colleague and now co-founder Sameer Nath noticed that search for regional information using a typical search engine did not deliver the most relevant or accurate results. The duo was also frustrated by pages riddled with paid-for results and sponsored listings that make is difficult for non-paying businesses to be found and attract visitors.
“We believe that the ranking of the online search results should not be controlled by corporations
and cryptic algorithms,” AlDarrai insisted.
But this was a concept that was “extremely” difficult to sell to investors.
After bootstrapping the business for close to two years, AlDarrai said he believes the funding ultimately came because of meekd’s visible and undeniable growth in search numbers.
More importantly however, he added, the backers wanted to champion meekd’s raison d’être.
“When me and a bunch of friends were having breakfast on a Saturday morning, we were talking about startups in general and how small ideas can become organizations worth billions of dollars,” AlDarrai recalled.
“I started talking about online search and how, until now, we do not have an independent search engine from our region. One of my friends wanted to know more and explore the idea further. So, the next day, I met with him and explained to him in details how search engines work and how this market is a pure monopoly controlled [just] by four tech companies. I wanted to listen to his ideas and thoughts so I did not reveal to him immediately that we already created a working search engine prototype. He was already excited about the idea and told me he’s willing to invest, if only someone knows how to build a search engine.”
Later, AlDarrai’s friend generously connected him with both Xmovies and an angel investor who was visiting Dubai for a quick business trip.
“He told me that the investor likes unique ideas and that he’s sure that if he spoke about the meekd search engine, he would be willing to invest in us too, and that what exactly happened.”
meekd is now concentrating on creating and releasing more unique features and is aiming to hit 10 million searches per day.
AlDarrai, who took part in the Emirati Pitch Training workshop held by Dubai Startup Hub in 2018, said that the Dubai Chamber’s initiatives and support has significantly helped meekd present their startup story and business idea to potential investors, partners and clients.
“We are so grateful to Dubai Chamber and specifically to the Dubai Startup Hub team,” AlDarrai said. “They have been so helpful in all ways possible, and always welcoming our suggestions and ideas. I personally do not think that we would’ve reached our position today, without being a member of the Dubai Startup Hub initiative.”
This article was originally published on Dubai Startup Hub and has been reposted on Entrepreneur Middle East based on a mutual agreement between the websites.