Interview with Adam Singolda, Founder & CEO, Taboola
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here? (What inspired you to start a technology innovation company?)
Taboola is the ﬁrst job I’ve ever had. I spent nearly seven years in the Israeli army and was living with my parents before I was discharged. As I was trying to relax, I couldn’t ﬁnd anything to watch on TV one day and thought, “I should not be looking for TV shows, TV shows should be looking for me.” Search engines changed our lives because if you know what you are looking for, you can ﬁnd it, and get medical information, entertainment, products and more. But what happens when you have no idea what to look for? When founding Taboola, our vision was to build a sort of search engine, but in reverse. Instead of expecting people to ﬁnd information, the information should ﬁnd people wherever they may be.
MTS: Given the changing dynamic of content engagement with online customers, how do you see the automation and analytics market evolving in the years to come?
There are three places digital marketers can spend dollars in – Google, Facebook, and the open web. I believe we’re going through a unique transition, where publishers want to have a plan in place to improve their access to data, and in light of brand safety concerns within the walled gardens, publishers can oﬀer a scalable, targeted — and safe — way to spend on campaigns. When people ﬁnish reading an article, they’re predisposed to discover something they may like and never knew existed. That moment is magical for brands as they can be introduced or reintroduced to consumers, adjacent to a premium piece of content. My hope and my thinking is that the next 2-3 years will be around unlocking that opportunity.
MTS: What’s the biggest challenge that CMOs need to tackle to make their predictive decisions work effectively?
I think, since the beginning, the main challenge (and opportunity) for CMOs was to balance quality, and protect their brand, while driving ROI — at scale. It’s very hard to do but when you look at emerging companies like Dollar Shave Club or Casper – you see there is a big opportunity for brands that cracked the code on ﬁnding new and innovative ways to achieve that. As an industry, we’re still facing a concentration challenge where while search and social drive massive value — 70% of every dollar is still going to two companies. This creates disadvantages in price as well as product innovation because marketers can’t truly aﬀect the product pipeline.
MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
There is so much going on, it feels like there is more innovation than ever, not only in small startups — also in bigger companies, and it’s exciting. The companies I ﬁnd interesting are in the AI/Deep-Learning space like Endor, Vi as well as drone companies like DJI, 3DR, medical companies like Zebra, or Kang (full disclosure, I’m on the board), cloud companies like Fastly, and many others.
MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
We are a content discovery platform connecting 1 Billion+ consumers with content, products, in-feed videos, email and apps/games through diﬀerent formats rendered in something we call Taboola Feed. Our stack includes:
– Top of the funnel opportunities for brands via Taboola Video that appears in feed, natively for users.
– Consideration and acquisition opportunities via sponsored content, app downloads, and more.
– eCommerce via “products you may like” that can appear in the feed natively
– Analytics & Insights – marketers who work with us get access to aggregated data about a billion people’s browsing habits, powering opportunities to target campaigns based on a variety of data points, as well as reporting and insights that help them better optimize with us.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader?
Embrace it! In fact, we have embraced it – as we already have a large Deep Learning team in Israel that has been working on the core technology of Taboola for nearly 2 years now as we evolve from machine learning. I believe we’re the last generation that will be looking for things, and the next generation will expect things to be recommended to them. Discovery allows people to become more productive and we only have 24 hours a day. Things like AI, VR, Mixed Reality, autonomous vehicles, autonomous drones, audio (versus display like Alexa, or Cortana) and better medical systems will be our future. We need to ﬁnd ways to re-invest ourselves as marketers to be relevant in that world we’re entering. As an example, we did a VR hackathon with UCLA to challenge students for great ideas about how they see the future.
This is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
I’ll reﬁne the question and answer what we’re looking for in people joining Taboola, and if had to go with one word, I’d say passion-intelligence-kindness. I work in the same way as our culture, and I believe that good people will catch up to people with experience — they’re loyal, have less to lose, feel empowered to make mistakes, learn and move on – and that results in gaining more in the end. I like that.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Facetime, Blue Jeans and Google Hangouts for video chats, Spotify for music, Tripit for my travel, Uber for driving, Seamless for food, Netflix for content, Evernote for notes, FaceBook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Twitter for Social related stuﬀ. And of course, Amazon for nearly everything.
MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
“Moments.” Life is only getting crazier and we only live once, so I believe it’s all about being present and appreciating the moments you have. Whether these moments are with a partner, a colleague, employee or my wife – I strive to be present. Don’t check your phone 1,000 times, don’t wonder about things. Be there. Make it short and to the point, if needed, but be present and appreciate moments.
I’d also say lots and lots of coﬀee. I am Israeli after all. 🙂
MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consumer information?)
Not sure if it’s a great answer, but mainly emails and online content.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
If you have to bet – bet on people. This has had a huge eﬀect of my life and Taboola. I’ve found I’ve made more mistakes when I haven’t followed this advice and created amazing things when I did.
MTS: Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Frank Wang Tao, the CEO of DJI
MTS: Thank you Adam! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Adam leads Taboola’s business strategy, execution and development while maintaining the company’s unique culture of quantification and innovation.
Prior to founding Taboola, Adam developed his analytical skills while serving as an officer in an elite mathematical unit of the Israeli National Security Agency for near 7 years (don’t ask, he can’t tell you).
Adam is an honored alum of the Israeli Defense Forces’ elite Mamram computer science training program, graduated first in his class at the Officers Academy of the IDF, and was recently named one of Israel’s top “30 under 30” business managers by TheMarker.
Adam authors a column for Mediapost on the video industry and is a regular speaker for Steaming Media, NAB, NewTeeVee, ELEVATE, Meetup, The Israel Conference, MIT (Sloan) , Bloomberg West, and others
Taboola is the leading discovery platform, serving 360B recommendations to over 1B unique visitors every month on some of the Web’s most innovative publisher sites, including USA TODAY, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, and The Weather Channel. Headquartered in New York City, Taboola has offices in Tel Aviv, Los Angeles, London, Bangkok, New Delhi, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul and Istanbul.
Publishers, marketers, and agencies leverage Taboola to retain users on their sites, monetize their traffic, and distribute their content to drive high-quality audiences. Learn more at www.taboola.com and follow @taboola on Twitter and Instagram.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.