Eric Leandri was once the darling of France’s tech sector, lauded as a defender of digital privacy and a paragon of Europe’s ability to compete against Silicon Valley.
Qwant — the search engine Leandri co-founded in 2011 — received more than €50 million in French and European public funding and loans. A-list politicians like French President Emmanuel Macron and European Union antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager endorsed the company over its better-known American competitor Google.
Today, things couldn’t look more different. Last summer, Qwant came so close to bankruptcy the company was forced to seek an €8 million loan from the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. Leandri, who left his job as head of the company in disgrace in 2020, has switched sides. His new venture, Altrnativ, specializes not in privacy — but in the rapidly growing field of cybersurveillance.