Meeting with Éric Léandri, cofounder of the start-up
Qwant is a search engine launched in 2013 that respects users' privacy and work for a neutral and open Web. Cofounder and general director Éric Léandri has granted us with an interview in his Paris branch.
A friendly search engine
A trained engineer, Éric Léandri has worked in IT security before creating Qwant in 2011 with Jean-Manuel Rozan and Patrick Constant. Their ambition was to create a secure and uncontrolled search engine. "People usually mix up the two notions, says Éric Léandri. Control means you try to make people go the way you want. Security means that you care about people, you're responsible and consider they are too."
Qwant was launched in 2013 and protects its users by not collecting any personal data. The search engine doesn't track its users' activity either. This a directly opposed offer than what other American giants offer: "We're not interested in your identity, your sexual orientation or your religion", says Éric Léandri, who's a strong advocate for a neutral and open Web. Our only concern is to offer an efficient search service."
To this regard, Qwant has launched in 2015 Qwant Junior, a search engine allowing kids to browse the Internet without being exposed to adult, violent or commercial contents.
An offer accessible in 25 countries and 16 languages
The values of Qwant are attracting. In 2013, the application had 1 million unique visitors per month. Three years later, in July 2016, they were 25 million. This is an incredible progress, even though is far behind the monthly billion unique visitors registered in 2011 for the American search engine, Google.
France is still the main market of Qwant, but the start-up has the eyes set on the international: the search engine is now available in 25 countries and in 16 languages. In 2014, on the day of the launch of its German version, Qwant was the number 2 search request on Google in Germany. "The number 1 request was unbeatable: it was a football game of the national team on the same night!" jokes Éric Léandri.
The reasons of this success? "Until now, Europeans were trying to compete with Google by offering the same thing with less means. With Qwant, we're trying another way."
A global vision that includes regional characteristics
For its international development, Qwant is betting on a smart inclusion of local and regional contexts. "Our context-based approach is only logical, says Éric Léandri. An inhabitant of the Brazilian Nordeste doesn't read the same newspaper as a resident in São Paolo. Why should we offer the same search results?"
"In Senegal, it makes no sense to offer French websites first in search results, even though the language is the same. To provide answers locally relevant, we need to rely on Senegalese websites." This strategy also takes into account language specificities: Qwant is already available in several regional languages such as Corsican and Catalan.
A multicultural start-up in full bloom
In order to grow, Qwant relies on collaborators from all over the world. "We need to master the language and context - including cultural - in each country indexed by our search engine, says Éric Léandri. The key is to provide relevant and meaningful answers". The company is thus in constant search for new multilingual and multicultural profiles.
Despite a quick growth, Qwant is sticking to its "start-up" spirit. In the Paris and Nice offices, the atmosphere is almost Californian. "We're one of the few companies to offer its developers to do things as exciting as in American groups such as "machine learning" or "blockchain" but with the energy and activity of a start-up, says Éric Léandri.
Today, Qwant is multiplying its projects. In June 2016, the company launched Qwant Music, a search engine dedicated to music. Next stop: the launch of Qwant Culture, in collaboration with famous institutions such as Festival of Avignon, the Aix-en-Provence Festival and the music festival in Chambord. The journey is not over yet, whether in France or the world.
Photos © François Rouzioux/Animal pensant