Back in the early 2000s, Adam Singolda was idly flicking through the TV when he was struck by a thought: why was he looking for TV shows when it should have been the TV shows looking for him? After applying the same chain of thought to the internet, he came up with the idea of Taboola, a content discovery and native adverting firm that offers user-generated content and article recommendations. If you’ve ever noticed the “Around The Web” and “Recommended For You” boxes at the bottom of certain websites, that’s Taboola. After a shaky start, the company is now valued at $2.6 billion and reaches almost half the world’s internet population. Find out more about the man driving its success with these 10 things you didn’t know about Adam Singolda.
1. Taboola is his first job
Most CEOs have decades of experience and resumes that are as long as they’re wide. Singolda is a little different. Prior to starting Taboola, he had zero professional experience. After graduating from school, he joined the Israeli army as part of the three-year mandatory service. Soon after joining, he was recruited into a special division that dealt with the protection side of encryption. He ended up serving for seven years, graduating from officer to team leader to senior manager. Speaking to Forbes, he described the experience as “amazing,” crediting it with offering the kind of responsibility that in civilian life, he’d have had to wait until he was 40 to experience.
2. A lightbulb moment inspired Taboola
After leaving the army, Singolda moved back into his family home. He had his own room and a TV but not a lot to fill his time. If he couldn’t find anything to watch, he had a problem. As it turned out, it was that exact problem that led him to come up with the idea for Taboola. Why, he thought, was he the one that had to look for TV shows, when TV shows should be looking for him? Speaking to Mobile Marketing Magazine about how that lightbulb moment inspired him to launch Taboola, he explained “The vision behind the company is to help consumers discover things they might like but never knew existed, sort of a search engine but in reverse – instead of expecting people to look for things, information should find people. The thinking is that if you are able to introduce people to new and relevant things, it can truly enrich their lives, whether that’s an article or a product.”
3. It took him a while to find success
Coming up with a great business idea is one thing. Seeing it through to fruition is another. During the first five years of business, the company operated on no revenue, almost forcing Singolda to shut up shop on several occasions. He tried different tactics, but nothing seemed to work. Redemption eventually came by way of a major investment from New York, swiftly followed by a new advertising business that allowed other websites to use it. From there, the only way was up.
4. He understands the importance of building partnerships
From an early stage, Singolda recognized that if Taboola was to become the business he wanted it to be, he couldn’t do it alone. To fulfill his vision, he’s entered into numerous partnerships with brands like Bauer Media, Reddit, Bild, Adroll, and, perhaps most notably, Vivo, through which Taboola has been able to introduce the hugely popular platform ‘Taboola News’ to Vivo’s Android-powered devices in India and South East Asia.
5. He’s not immune from criticism
Singolda may have started Taboola as a way of revitalizing the internet, but some critics have suggested Taboolo is more of a hindrance to progress than a help. In one particularly scathing review, Forbes suggested its content recommendations highlighted “the worst of the Web,” citing recommended articles such as “The World’s Cutest Cat Pictures All On One Site” and “Top 15 Celebrities You Didn’t Know are Black” as justification for their claim. Others have suggested that its services are used for clickbait and fake news.
6. He’s got huge plans for the future
Despite its initial struggles, Taboola has grown into a major concern, operating from 18 locations across the world and employing over 1000 people. It’s struck up partnerships with over 10,000 publishers and brands and reaches 1.4 billion unique users per month. In the first quarter of 2021, it reported revenue of $303 million and net income of $18.6 million. But apparently, connecting with 44.5 percent of the world’s internet population and operating a business valued at $2.6 billion isn’t enough for Singolda. His plans for the future include integrating Taboola News into every Android device in the world. Once that’s achieved, the next step will be integrating it into cars, autonomous vehicles, and in-flight entertainment systems.
7. He’s committed to stamping out fake news
He may have been accused of promoting fake news in the past, but Singolda is now taking major steps to ensure Taboola isn’t used as a vehicle for spreading misinformation or malicious content. “We have responsibility. We don’t want fake news. We don’t recommend things that can harm consumers,” he’s said to dmexco.com. To ensure they don’t, he’s set up a 50 member Content Review Team that filters out false claims, sensitive topics, and ads from untrustworthy sources.
8. He’s just taken Taboola public
This June, Singolda took Taboola public following a multi-billion merger with the special purpose acquisition company (SPOC), ION Acquisition Corp. The practice of listing through a SPOC has become increasingly popular in recent years, offering a much easier way for companies to list themselves than the traditional process.
9. He can’t live without Amazon
Taboola lives and breathes the internet, and so, apparently, does its CEO. Singolda is a man who likes apps, as he made very clear during a conversation with martechseries.com. Asked which apps he couldn’t live without, he reeled off an extensive list that included “Facetime, Blue Jeans and Google Hangouts for video chats, Spotify for music, Tripit for 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.”
10. He’s in hot demand as a public speaker
When he’s not in the boardroom, Singolda can usually be found on stage. Just a small sample of the events he’s spoken at include 360i Marketing Summit, Kaltura Connect, Business Insider’s IGNITION, Web Summit, Landmark Ventures Media Technology Summit, TEDx, Collision, ClickZ LIVE, Advertising Week, Streaming Media, NAB, NewTeeVee, ELEVATE, and Meetup. He’s also a regular fixture on Bloomberg West, CNBC, and Fox Business.