Christian Kroll, the German founder of search engine Ecosia, says he wants “to make the world a greener, better place.”
He adds that he also wants “to prove that there is a more ethical alternative to the kind of greedy capitalism that is coming close to destroying the planet.”
Ecosia, which the 35-year-old Kroll launched in 2009, has a unique business model. Most of its profits are spent on planting trees, via 20 tree-planting projects it supports around the world.
The search engine makes money the same way as Google: by charging advertisers every time someone clicks on their ads. Since not everyone searching the internet clicks on an advertisement, the company estimates that it takes about 45 searches to raise just 0.22 euros (about 26 US pennies), which is the cost to plant one tree.
But strength is in numbers. Although the Berlin-based Ecosia has only 15 million users, compared to Google’s 5.6 billion searches per day, by giving away 80% of his profits Kroll has been responsible for the planting of over 105 million trees in Indonesia, Brazil, Kenya, Haiti, and beyond.
Despite this success, Kroll is thinking big. He is planning to “scale massively, win more users, and plant billions of trees.”
Kroll also says he will never purchase a yacht, as some other search engine founders have done. He explains why not:
“While they have big yachts, I have an inflatable dinghy that I take to lakes. Ego consumption is not appropriate in a world where there’s climate change.”
There is a more technical reason he will never buy a yacht, or any other expensive luxury: he put two legally binding restrictions on his business—shareholders and staff are forbidden from personally selling their shares or taking profits outside of the company.
Ecosia has 70 employees and puts its financial statements online monthly. All the company’s electrical needs are met through solar power. The company says that 80% of its users are under age 29.