Traction Is the Key to DuckDuckGo’s Trajectory

Gabriel Weinberg's private search engine has reached 3 billion unique searches.--photo via

51DGPVyS5wL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The Paoli-based search engine that’s taking the world by storm — and taking on Google — is where it is today because of a bold idea and traction.

“Traction is the best way to improve your chances of startup success,” DuckDuckGo Founder Gabriel Weinberg wrote in a recent Fast Company feature promoting his new book, Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth. “Traction is a sign that something is working. If you charge for your product, it means customers are buying. If your product is free, it’s a growing user base.

“Traction is powerful. Technical, market and team risks are easier to address with traction. Fundraising, hiring, press, partnerships and acquisitions all become much easier. In other words, traction trumps everything.”

Weinberg kept DuckDuckGo alive with money made from the sale of a previous startup, but it was traction that propelled it to one of a select few available search engine options on Firefox and iOS.

“Since DuckDuckGo’s humble beginnings, we have grown five orders of magnitude (10x growth spurts), from that initial 100 searches a day to now over 10 million a day,” he noted. “Each step — from 100 to 1,000, 10,000 to 100,000, 1 million to 10 million — involved figuring out how to get traction again. That’s because what works in one growth stage eventually stops working.”

And Weinberg is sharing what he thinks are the keys to startup success and avoiding the all-too-common fate of great ideas that never gained enough traction.

“The most common startup trajectory now goes something like the following,” he explained in the article: “Founders have an idea for a company they’re excited about. Initial excitement turns into a struggle to build a product, but they do get something out the door. Then they launch. The founders had expected customers to beat a path to their door, but unfortunately that isn’t happening. Getting traction was an afterthought, but now they are focused on it. They try what they know or what they’ve heard others do: some Facebook ads, a little local PR and maybe a smattering of blog posts. Then they run out of money and the company dies.”

In Fast Company here, read more about how Weinberg got it right with DuckDuckGo and what he’s found to be the keys to gaining traction through interviews with more than 40 other startup founders, and check out previous VISTA Today coverage of DuckDuckGo’s biggest developments here.