Can you believe it’s 2020 already? I feel like I just wrote my 2018 year in review and here we are starting a whole new decade.
In the last decade, a lot has happened. I’m not even sure where to begin—the ice bucket challenge, Iron Man came out of the well and ended with a snap, a total solar eclipse, the world went crazy over Pokémon Go, we became momentarily obsessed with planking, Leo finally won an Oscar and Serial made podcasts mainstream. We even retired our very first server that we got in 2007. Fun fact—we now have 8,500 servers.
The world also came to grips with the technology we raced to build and made a daily part of our lives. The iPhone changed how we communicate and work, leading the way for app-based businesses that do things like fuel the gig economy, and make online dating the norm. We’ve seen privacy disruption, mass-media mergers, the explosion of e-commerce, and so much more.
In the midst of these global events has been our own special journey at Taboola, and before anyone speaks about the future, or the next decade, they have to start with the past.
Win-Win (vs. Win-Lose) Culture
I started Taboola in 2007 with a vision to help people discover things they may like and never knew existed—what we call a “moment of next”—protecting and being the safeguard of the open web and journalism. That is our purpose.
When I’m asked about it, where I think we fit in the industry, it’s clear to me that what makes us special is the way we do business, what we refer to as a “win-win” culture. When I look around at many of the big platforms, even those loved by consumers, most of their growth over the history of time came at the expense of other companies; their partners—growth founded on a “win-lose” strategy.
They grew, their partners lost.
Because we’re not a consumer brand, and because we will never become one—the only way for us to grow is for our partners to grow—for the open web and journalism to grow. Our future is completely aligned with the success of our (beloved) partners. These partners have lost so much to the walled garden platforms—and that’s where we come in. We want to make sure that these incredible companies, premium publishers, device manufacturers, app developers, and advertisers are forever winners.
I have so many partners around the world to thank for trusting us, and for all the hard work that took place over the last decade, and specifically in 2019, for growing our mutual business together. Just to name a few advertisers who trust us to drive growth outside of walled gardens; thank you to companies like Adidas, Honda, AIG, Nespresso and non-profits like World Vision and others. Thank you to publishers like Microsoft, NBC, Fox Sports, CNBC, CBS, Ynet, HuffPost, Le Figaro, Sankei, Reach, Axel Springer, News Corp Australia and others.
Thank you to our Taboola News partners around the world, partners such as Sony, Vivo, American Movil, ZTE and others. As a reminder, Taboola News, our newest platform where OEMs and carriers can integrate Taboola’s SDK to surface an “Apple News”-like product into each device at the point of sale, engaging consumers in the Android community and driving engaged users back to the open web.
100,000 People Applied To Join Taboola in 2019
Last year, we were fortunate that over 100,000 people applied to work for Taboola, and we grew to almost 1,500 employees (“Taboolars”) in 18 offices across the globe.
From a scale perspective, we served shy of half a trillion recommendations every month on the open web to 1.4 billion people, and they discovered (clicked) a piece of content or information on Taboola 20+ billion times.
While we worked so hard to drive growth for our partners and clients, we also worked hard for each other and our ecosystem. In 2019, we broadened our impact beyond the digital world:
- We changed the way we work with recruiting agencies—we only work with agencies that send us diverse candidate pools or we won’t work with those agencies.
- We launched Taboola Inspire, our culture committee based in London, and partnered with several nonprofits at volunteer events across Europe. More importantly, the Taboola Inspire team has launched a number of green initiatives. Last year, our London office saved 7,000 plastic bottles, or 2000kg of oil and 750kg of greenhouse gases.
- Our Culture Committee in New York, Taboola Spirit in Bangkok, and our grassroots volunteer organization in Israel all worked to host and volunteer at similar sustainability-focused events, as well as support causes like women leadership and AI education.
- We had our first women leadership breakfast where we included leaders from all over the world at our latest sales kickoff, soon to be followed by many more.
When it comes to work-life-balance, I talk internally at Taboola and externally in other channels about the importance of working hard, “startup-level-hard,” but also the importance of balancing other meaningful things and events in life. It’s not about “more more more” at all costs, but rather about being efficient with our time, and prioritizing so we can do what we love for a long time.
For example, when I’m not traveling (about 60% of the time), I wake up at 5:00 am to take calls and answer emails while it’s still quiet at home. When I can, I squeeze in some LEGO building time, which is how I meditate :-). At 7:15 it’s father/son time and I make breakfast with Oz and then walk him to school. If I can’t make our morning routine, then I make sure to get home at night in time to give him or my new daughter, Ellie, a bath. From time-to-time, I go out to meet clients afterwards.
In general, I try to spend some quality one-on-one time with my kids and my wife, Victoria, every day that I’m not traveling. They keep me grounded, happy, and make me a better version of myself and a better CEO for Taboola.
Mergers and Babies: Together We Are 11
Last year, it was mainly about “mergers and babies” for me.
In 2019, a huge moment for us and the publisher-advertiser industry occured: Taboola and Outbrain announced the signing of a merger agreement, and our joining of hands.
I said it on Squawk Box—and I meant it, I believe we’ll be able to double our publisher partner revenue, as well as give hundreds of thousands of small businesses and big brands an opportunity to drive growth outside of three companies who currently own more than 80% of the digital advertising space.
Last year, beyond my Taboola family expanding to include Outbrain, perhaps the most amazing thing happened—my own family expanded with Elinor (Ellie), who joined her brother, Ozzy.
When Ellie joined Ozzy, it was obvious to me that we’d grow as a family from having one kid to two kids.
1+1 = 2…
But I was wrong, it wasn’t just another kid, it transformed our home from having one kid to having a family—a tribe.
I saw it immediately, Ozzy started learning from Ellie, and Ellie from Ozzy, and growth opportunities arose. I’m telling you—a ton of growth synergies.
But you see, what I found was that 1+1 is not 2… it’s really more like 11.
And when I think about Outbrain and Taboola joining forces, together we’re 11.
2020 to 2030: Our Journey From “Seconds to Minutes” with News-as-a-Service
2019 is behind us. 2020 and the next decade is here.
I’m so optimistic about the future of journalism, the open web and advertisers. When I think of every app developer, every device manufacturer, and every publisher in the world—everybody is looking to engage consumers just a bit more.
The best way to engage consumers is news and content, and the industry is responding.
We saw it respond in 2019 when News Corp broke into news aggregation with Knewz, when CNN announced the future launch of their news aggregator, NewsCo, and how we’ve seen Apple double down on Apple News to get people to stick around on their iPhones a bit longer.
News is the new “pink” and that’s a great thing for the industry.
Here’s what the future could look with news, and content in the middle of it all.
Every sports app that people visit just to get their team’s score now has relevant news about their teams to get people to stick around just another minute a day.
Every healthcare application or service where people come visit to check their symptoms now includes relevant content and news, and stay for healthcare content.
Every financial service, every community service, every utility application, every ridesharing app, and more can now include news and content, and glue us all together in a relevant way.
If we do it right, we can increase the time people spend with content and news, and their level of engagement, because they’re getting more value. We can do this all around the world, across all services—not by spending just a few seconds a day with people, but minutes.
I call this revolution “from seconds to minutes.”
The world needs journalism and the open web to survive and thrive. It’s important for our kids, and our kids’ kids, and I feel humbled to be a part of a revolution over the next decade that will bring news and content, in the most relevant way, to every possible service, hardware, and site in the world.
Our plan is to forever be a win-win company, so that the open web keeps trusting us to bring relevant news into those moments, and so people will stick around longer for valuable content.
Taboolars, If you’ve joined over the last 10 years, I feel like our life has changed and we have changed the life of this industry. Over the next 10 years, as we grow from 2,000 employees to 20,000 (scaling our startup), our life will change again, and we’ll have a chance to make an even bigger industry change.
Our purpose to save journalism matters, let’s do this. Together.
Thank you Taboolars, publishers, advertisers, and hardware manufacturers around the world that have given us a chance.
I promise you, we’re just getting started…