Gigya started off with one set of market assumptions, and along the way, pivoted to a drastically different market, addressing an entirely different pain point. Four years later, it switched from an ad-supported business model to SaaS. It survived all these changes, and has now built a robust company, fueled by over $100 million of funding, strong customer growth, and overall execution. Read this very interesting, decade-long journey related by one of the co-founders of the company.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised, and in what kind of circumstances?
Eyal Magen: I was born in Israel. I was raised here. I was interested both in computers and psychology when I was in high school. I think the combination of psychology and computers is something that is very necessary for being an entrepreneur. That’s my early background.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do in college?
Eyal Magen: I studied Psychology and Sociology. That was my major.
Sramana Mitra: Tell me when were you coming out of college. What year was that? What was happening in the world?
Eyal Magen: In Israel, you have to do mandatory three years of army service. I was serving as a combat soldier in one of Israel’s elite units. After the army, it took me a few years to decide what I want to major in. Eventually, I studied Psychology. I came out of college in 1999. During my college years, it was the beginning of the Internet phenomena.
When I graduated, I started to work at a small startup in Israel. A friend of mine suggested that I apply and join a startup called Hotbar. They’d just raised a few million dollars. I hooked up with the lead entrepreneur and we had a discussion and an unofficial interview in his apartment. We saw the same things. I was the fifth employee of a very young startup that was into personalization. It was in the very early days of browsers Netscape and Internet Explorer. The product was an add-on for the browser. With any kind of entrepreneurship, you have to have a combination of skill and opportunity to put that skill into action.
Sramana Mitra: What happened to that company?
Eyal Magen: That company grew to 130 people and was eventually sold. I wasn’t one of the founders. I was one of the early employees. I was VP Product there for seven years. I also moved to New York and lived there for a couple of years.
Sramana Mitra: It was sold in what year?
Eyal Magen: It was sold in 2006.
Sramana Mitra: Did you make money off that transaction?
Eyal Magen: A little bit. It wasn’t a huge exit. As an executive, I earned money, but it wasn’t a life-changing event for me.
Sramana Mitra: It wasn’t that big an exit.
Eyal Magen: Right.