The Man Who Doesn’t Fear Google: Blekko Backer Sees Room For Search Upstart

The Internet is littered with search engines that tried and failed to stand up to Google, but Blekko backer Saad Khan doesn’t expect the same fate for his startup.

“I don’t need to have a $100 billion company to call it a success,” says this CMEA Capital partner, whose firm, along with Marc Andreessen, Ron Conway and U.S. Venture Partners, invested $24 million into the company.

Khan says there is room in the market for smaller search companies — perhaps with a couple hundred million dollars in annual revenue — to coexist with Google. “I think of that as an opportunity,” he says. (Paragraph corrected to say a couple hundred million dollars in revenue, not a couple million.)

It is a tall order. Blekko launched its site about three weeks ago to generally favorable reviews. Its goal is to free Internet search from the clutter of low quality content churned out by so called content farms, which hire writers for next to nothing to produce articles on a variety of topics. It also attempts to customize search by honing in on particular subject areas in the manner of a vertical search engine.

On top of that, it has a crowdsource component. Users can create their own tags, or slashtags, to vertically customize results.

Blekko does not see itself as a Google killer — which is good. Google is by far the dominant player, with 66.3% of the U.S. market in October, according to comScore, followed by Yahoo with 16.5% and Microsoft with 11.5%. It is a hard position to assail.

And “by no means do I expect Blekko to become a Google killer,” wrote search guru Danny Sullivan late last month. Many of the companies that tried have little to show for their efforts — Mahalo, for instance, or Cuill or SearchMe.

Khan says he sees search as a big enough market for several companies. Plus he views the landscape as favorable for investing.

“These guys are really pioneering what I think of as crowdsource search,” he says. There is plenty of engineering talent available to hire from companies, including Google.

And there are few other upstart companies competing in the market, he says.

I hope that last point isn’t an ominous warning.