When you click open an article on the Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet or Lucky magazine, you’ll see links to related stories you might enjoy reading on the same site or on another website.
Where do those recommendations come from? Israel, albeit indirectly.
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The Israel-founded company Outbrain provides the content discovery platform underneath the covers of leading news websites – from USA Today to Slate, from Newsweek to All Things D.
Targeted content recommendations increase page views up to 12 percent and move readers between a site’s blogs and sections, as well as to other brands within a network.
With a recent infusion of $35 million from its latest financing round, plus its acquisition of recommendation platform Surphace, Outbrain now serves more than five billion page views each month, helping millions of readers discover new and compelling content. And it’s in hiring mode at its branches around the globe.
Co-founder and CTO Ori Lahav tells ISRAEL21c that he and CEO Yaron Galai conceived of the company in 2006.
“This is when people started feeling the explosion of content and we wanted to make some order and try to search out good recommendations,” he says. “Like with every startup, we tried things, bumped into walls, changed directions, and our original idea evolved.”
Expanding to Asia
At the beginning, he and Galai ran their intercontinental business with Galai on his laptop at a New York Starbucks and Lahav on his laptop in his home orchards of Pardes Hanna. Eventually they rented office space in Herzliya and then Netanya.
“Today, Outbrain has team of very talented people who are aware of the business matrix and can show us what isn’t working — and what is working, to grow it and make it more successful,” says Lahav.
“Right now we are mostly focusing on publisher pages, where people read content. We discover other interesting pieces for them, whether from the same publisher or from a high-quality third-party marketer.”
Naturally, there is competition. However, Lahav claims Outbrain leads the pack.
“Several companies are trying to get into this space, but I don’t think there is any other system that has our reach in terms of number of deals with publishers.”
Outbrain employs about 55 people at its R&D facility in Netanya. More than 100 others work at its offices in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, London, Hamburg and Paris. Additional tech-talented employees are sought in all these places.
“We use many approaches that our R&D people create in order to find good recommendations, and we have a mechanism for choosing what to show in every case,” explains Lahav.
The content suggestions are even slightly personalized, with the help of a proprietary algorithm, to fit the interests of each viewer. With financing now totaling $64 million from investors such as Carmel Ventures, Gemini Israel Funds, GlenRock Israel, Rhodium, Index Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners, Outbrain is ready to ramp up its operations worldwide.
“We’re starting operations in the Asian Pacific this year and also expanding into other new product directions like video and mobile, which we have already started and are strengthening,” reveals Lahav.
“We also started marketing in Israel to both publishers and advertisers, strengthening our Hebrew presence with clients such as Ynet, The Marker, Haaretz, Globes and many others. We recently acquired the ability to buy traffic to Hebrew articles and content sites, and have started selling it.”