In Europe, Yandex in Russia and Seznam in the Czech Republic, in particular, stand firm as domestic challengers to the behemoth from Silicon Valley. Having launched last month, Albanian search engine Gjirafa aims to join this club of local search engines to withstand Google’s move into the region.
One of the most interesting aspects of this startup is that, though founded by Albanians and targeting the Albanian and Kosovar markets, the team behind this project opted to accelerate at Prague-based StartupYard, one of the Czech Republic’s most prominent accelerators. CEO Mergim Cahani tells me that this project has been under development for quite a while, beginning when he was still working on his graduate studies at New York University 3 years ago. Then, 5 months ago, they completed the acceleration program in the Czech Republic and readied to go live.
Cahani says that they are aiming to follow the model set by other search engines by monetizing the service through ads, particularly targeted marketing based on keywords and content. Down the road, he says that they are looking to roll out a few subscription and transactional-based channels (within the next 2-3 years, likely).
Gjirafa only officially launched 5 weeks ago and Cahani tells me that they are still reluctant to reveal their total number of users. But, he did me that the totals exceeded their initial projections. The service remains in beta, but now they have made the leap from private to public.
Cahani tells me that he and fellow co-founders Ercan Canhasi and Diogjen Elshani bootstrapped the company initially, but later picked up investment from StartupYard, Innovation Centre Kosovo, and private investors such as Jan Habermann of Czech-based Credo Ventures and other unnamed angels. Although they are not revealing information about their their finances, Cahani has said that they have a team of 18 staff members at this point, so they appear to be in a pretty healthy state at the moment.