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Building a Billion Dollar Unicorn: Outbrain CEO Yaron Galai (Part 1)

Posted on Thursday, Jun 23rd 2016

Yaron came with a clear notion of how he wanted to recommend content and monetize those recommendations. It took, however, many years before the market caught up with his vision. It has now. The company is going gangbusters.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?

Yaron Galai: I was raised in Israel. That’s where I grew up most of my childhood and spent my first 30 years. I served in the Israeli Navy for 7 years and then started startups.

Sramana Mitra: What year does that bring us up to? You said you worked in the Navy and then started working on startups, or was some of that interweaved while you were still at the Navy?

Yaron Galai: I finished my Navy service. It’s hard to interweave anything other than that. I was serving on a frigate. I did study product design but I never graduated. I attended that for four years.

Sramana Mitra: What year does that bring us up to?

Yaron Galai: I finished my service in 1995 and studied through 2000.

Sramana Mitra: 2000 was when your startup activity start.

Yaron Galai: Yes, I did start my first company while studying, which is part of the reason I never graduated.

Sramana Mitra: What was that company and what happened to it?

Yaron Galai: It was one of the first web design shops in Israel. At that time, this was just the beginning of Internet. I did everything from web design, HTML, hosting, SEO, and everything related to building and promoting a site. I’ve built over 40 websites for customers and then sold it off to someone else.

Sramana Mitra: What year did you sell that off?

Yaron Galai: When I started my next company which was a small ad tech company in 1999.

Sramana Mitra: What was the ad tech company?

Yaron Galai: It was called AdForever. It was not thoroughly interesting. It was a very early rich media ad tech company. I co-founded that. That was eventually sold to a company that was acquired by a company that was acquired by Microsoft.

Sramana Mitra: It sounds like you didn’t stay with that company for a very long time.

Yaron Galai: That’s right. I did it for a year. I was interested in doing something that was more specific around content and not advertising. For me, that was becoming pretty interruptive advertising. I was more interested in the content piece. One of the things I’ve loved is reading. I love consuming content. That’s basically the only thing written about me in our high school yearbook. I wanted something that had to do more with the content itself.

Sramana Mitra: What was going on in your mind in terms of what you could do, where you could add value, and what were the opportunities in that ecosystem?

Yaron Galai: The biggest thing was the ability to  discover a piece of content that was wonderful that I didn’t necessarily know about. I have this medical condition which I invented, but I believe I have it. I call it being a completionist. If you give me a magazine, I have to read it all. I’ve discovered through non-scientific research that about 20% of the population has that condition.

Sramana Mitra: That’s a very large number.

Yaron Galai: I’ve evolved this theory that I invented over the years. It manifests itself in a few different ways like folks going through the supermarket and having to go through all the aisles. That used to be manageable when I could subscribe to two or three magazines and one newspaper.

Once the Internet started, there’s just so much content that came online. It just became very frustrating to be able to know what to focus on. For me, the problem that I’ve been trying to solve forever is the discoverability of great content. Online is really prime for it because all the data is out there.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Building a Billion Dollar Unicorn: Outbrain CEO Yaron Galai
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