‘You can copy anything from another business except culture’ Q&A with Adam Singolda, Taboola

The founder of content recommendation platform Taboola explains how it can help SMEs with discoverability

SME: Tell us about your company, what does it do?

When founding Taboola, our vision was to build a sort of search engine, but in reverse. Instead of expecting people to find information, information should find people wherever they may be to help people discover what’s new and interesting in a personalised way. We currently reach half of the world’s internet users and now serve over 450 billion recommendations of articles, blogs, videos, products and apps to over 1.4 billion unique users every month on thousands of premium sites and mobile carriers.

Publishers, brand marketers, and performance advertisers use Taboola to reach and engage new audiences with their stories, videos and products as these are presented in brand safe environment on premium publisher sites. We currently work with some of the UK’s leading publishers and brands including Bauer Media, Trinity Group, DMGT, and The Independent.

SME: How can Taboola’s technology benefit SMEs?

There are three places digital marketers can spend dollars in – Google, Facebook and the open web. In light of brand safety concerns within social environments, the open web offers a scalable, targeted — and safe — way to spend on campaigns that will appear alongside premium publisher content, carrying the clout of that site. When people finish reading an article, they’re predisposed to discover something they may like and never knew existed. That’s where Taboola’s technology comes in. We enable people to discover new brands, from SMEs to known brands, by recommending them during that magical moment when users are ready for what’s next. We believe that every brand – big or small – has a story to tell and we want to empower millions of businesses to realise that dream – from the world’s biggest airline to the neighbourhood pizza shop.

SME: What business challenges have you had to overcome?

In any new business, the first few years are the hardest as you look for product market fit, and usually require the most perseverance to get off the ground. We were very fortunate to have investors that believed in us and helped us keep going during those years where we tried to figure things out. Our technology was great but the market was not ready. I started Taboola initially because I couldn’t find anything to watch on TV, and I thought I should not be looking for TV programmes – but rather TV programmes should be looking for me. That led me to focus our first four years on video recommendations specifically. The biggest business challenge was that I took the wrong bet. While there was a massive opportunity in recommending anything anywhere to users – the video market was premature and actually tiny at the time. It was only as we evolved from video to articles, galleries, product, and other types of recommendations that we were able to take advantage of our unique technology, and scale it everywhere. Now we are more than 10 years into our journey and I’m so humbled to have come so far — getting to nearly a thousand people working at Taboola around the world.

SME: If a young entrepreneur came to you asking for advice on setting up a business, what would you say?

There are two things I usually say.

First, choose a market that is big enough as it’s very likely you will evolve your product and experience over time. It’s key that as you change and evolve your product or service can become big enough as a company and business. Most of the companies you know today do different things than what they told investors they’d do when they started.

Second – and perhaps the hardest and most important – is if you have to bet, bet on people. Surround yourself with people who will push your journey forward and can together, co-write the story of your company and build the right culture that can last forever. You can copy anything from another business but you can’t copy a company’s culture. While I never finished my undergrad, I was fortunate enough to give a presentation at MIT about our culture that we call, “Economy Of good enough.” We believe that it’s okay for people to make mistakes as long as you ideally make them fast and move on, and learn. The main differentiation companies have these days is the capability of a group of people to execute as a team.

SME: If you had to sum up your approach to business in three words, what would they be?

Passion, intelligence, kindness.

Adam Singolda (36) founded native advertising and content discovery specialist Taboola. The platform now has over one billion monthly users and reaches over half of the world’s internet users as a result of its work with more than 3,500 of the world’s publisher sites. It recently announced a new partnership with French publishing giant Le Figaro, while other new partnerships include Bauer Media and HubSpot