Outbrain is now one of the leading content discovery platforms on international markets, providing their clients with increased traffic and growing revenues gained from efficient marketing campaigns, led in association with Outbrain’s brand partners. The company is headquartered in New York and also manages offices in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC, London, Paris, Hamburg, and Netanya. Founded in 2006 as a startup, Outbrain has been so far financially backed by such investors as Index Ventures, Carmel Ventures, Gemini Israel Funds, GlenRock Israel, Rhodium and Lightspeed Venture Partners, with the last $50 million injections made in July 2015.
In 2010, Outbrain started considering “going global”, which was at once distinguished from creating an “international organization” operating in one country and selling to many. A “global organization” usually operates and sells locally in each market, and this is the right way to build healthy customer relationships in every market. Today Outbrain cooperates with 80% of the world famous brands and manages 17 offices in 15 countries (which is not the limit yet).
Ori Lahav, the company’s co-founder, CTO and General Manager, who is also responsible for the R&D center in Israel, shares the globalization strategy that was applied by Outbrain and eventually proved to be successful.
Initially, Outbrain positioned itself as a startup business aiming at promoting content by making it interesting and trustworthy for the readers. Like many startups, the guys had to try a few products before they stopped on the concept of offering content recommendations via online publications. In 2009, Outbrain started to charge money for their services. As soon as they came up with a good business model, it became possible to scale and go outside the US. After Outbrain began to branch out globally, the company’s founders Yaron Galai and Ori Lahav mostly applied the following strategic moves:
1) The “navy” management style
In the Navy, all remote operations and missions are operated by autonomous forces often having no contact with the headquarters. It means that each operating force is solely responsible for their mission. Outbrain did the same. Their regional sales forces in Europe, APAC, North and Latin America are managed by local leaders, who control each division’s business plan, budget and execute it.
2) Building mutual trust
Outbrain has been executing so-called “Swap” program, allowing team members from their global business and tech departments to understand each other’s work better and, therefore, trust each other’s competencies. Every quarter they send one business manager to swap his seat with an engineer. This can be considered a good example of total involvement in the project and perfect collaboration within the international team.
3) The first employee in a new country is a founder of a ‘sub-business’
Every new country opens through the people who will represent your company there, who will hire other local employees and create the company culture. Therefore, hiring this first employee is a very important task! Such people should be very resourceful and self-sufficient workers, perfectly matching the company culture and able to operate remotely and independently.
4) The power of local leadership
Although there is a lot of independence given to local managers, it is extremely essential to make sure that it always “feels the same” in every local office: the company culture is projected, the teams are built in the “right” way etc.
5) Maintaining the company culture
When you manage a global business in several remote offices with totally different local cultures, it is worth keeping the company culture somehow. This might take a lot of time and real efforts, but it is necessary. Outbrain founders travel to their remote offices at least once a year to meet their remote teams and even do “culture sessions”. They also organize yearly Global Sales Summits to share the latest achievements and know-how among the international departments.
If you want to learn more about scaling your startup and then managing a global company, you can meet Ori Lahav on
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