Yaron was kind enough to answer 5 questions for VC Cafe. Without further ado, see the scoop below.
Question: In simple words, What is Outbrain?
- Yaron: Outbrain is a platform for ratings & recommendations of blog/RSS posts. In ways, it’s similar to Amazon’s “People who liked this also liked XYZ”, or Netflix ratings/recommendations, etc., just applied to blog content.
Question: What problem does Outbrain solve? How?
- Yaron: The problem we’re trying to solve is that of discovery of interesting content. The blogosphere is creating a ton of content everyday, yet there are no tools that help the readers find the most interesting content out there. In *search* mode, when I know what I’m looking for, this problem is solved by search engines. But in *discovery* mode, when I’m just looking for interesting content, there are no tools yet that help me do that.
The best examples are the RSS aggregators – they’re great tools (I love Bloglines!), but at the same time they are completely broken because after subscribing to 10+ feeds I am completely swamped with a firehouse of content without any ability to find the good stuff.
Question: How long did it take to launch the product? What would you have done differently?
- Yaron: We’ve been working on this for about 1 year now. A lot of what we’ve done is behind the scenes and not visible… you’d be surprised how much effort it takes to create a solid ratings system that can correlate similar users and make recommendations based on that…
One thing that I would have done differently is: We initially focused on providing individual users with a browser extension that embeds our functionality in their browser. That was a mistake, because we couldn’t get to a critical mass of data to make the product really useful (classic chicken&egg). We later decided to hold on the individual users and focus first on building a critical mass of data via blogger widgets and a free API we make available to RSS aggregators (like Bloglines). This has started proving itself with 4 RSS aggregators already embedding our API, and a few hundred bloggers signing up for our widget beta.
Question: Plans for growth? are you guys funded?
- Yaron:We’ve announced\na seed round earlier this year. You can read about it on my blog: http://www.webx0.com/2007/05/outbrain_gets_f.html
- We want to become the de-facto platform used for ratings of blog/RSS content. We think there is a ton of value for all players in this space to share data through a common platform. Otherwise no single player can will be able to accumulate enough meaningful data. For example – your posts may be consumed on your blog, but also via a variety of RSS aggregators, and email syndication, etc, etc. By aggregating the ratings from as many of these places where data might be consumed, we think we’ll be able to help everyone make much better reading recommendations.
- Our next phase will probably involve the introduction of some form of advertising based on the data we accumulate. We think there is a great opportunity to offer readers ads that are perfectly targeted to their interests based on how they rated various posts.
Question: What are the 5 services on the internet that you can’t do without?
- Yaron: Hmmmm –
- Gmail/Gtalk/ Google Maps
Outbrain was founded in Israel on June of 2006. It currently has 10 employees and it is located both in Israel and NY. Otbrain’s seed round was raised in May this year by LGiLab, GlenRock Israel, and Sigma PCM among others.