It’s clear that Israel is growing up from startup nation to scale-up nation, growing huge global companies instead of incubating cool products in small startups. But this comes with its own set of problems: as companies grow, so does demand for a bigger hyper-talented workforce; retaining the agility and disruptive innovation that made these companies great is also a challenge as they grow into larger corporate entities; and managing offices around the world can be hard if headquarters remain in Israel. ironSource’s Omer Kaplan addressed these questions and more in his talk about the new Scale Up Nation. During his talk at Casual Connect Tel Aviv, Omer stressed, “The first lesson in the art of global expansion is humility and modesty . . . The second one is patience.”
Omer Kaplan is Deputy CEO and co-founder of ironSource, leading the company’s mobile, media and marketing divisions. His background is in mobile advertising and app discovery, as well as software distribution. He was CEO of AfterDownload, a company he founded in 2010, which offered unique monetization tools to developers. In 2013, AfterDownload became a part of ironSource, the foundation for their current display, mobile web and video advertising offering, and Omer accepted his current position.
In Tune with the Needs of Developers
Omer’s experience at AfterDownload gave him an understanding of the challenges developers are now facing. Today’s content and app saturated ecosystem requires developers to do more than build a great product. They must also be able to target the right users and find effective ways to monetize that product. And, as he emphasizes, this is especially difficult because most users don’t want to pay for apps.
Even as a child, Omer was fascinated by the idea of entrepreneurship and the excitement of starting a business and taking it to success. He has always been attracted to the dynamism and rapid pace of the technology industry. Being an entrepreneur simply came naturally to him and, he reveals, “Being involved in solving challenges for app developers and helping them succeed was something very close to my heart.”
Helping game developers succeed has always been a core part of ironSource’s business and they are committed to staying in tune with their needs. This is the reason they acquired the game studio Upopa in 2014, bringing their development in house and helping them develop new games.
Omer points out, “Some of the most innovative, engaging and appealing mobile ads are created first for gaming apps before reaching the larger mobile market, and being able to be so intimately involved with the development and design process – from UX to UA – is one of the best parts of working in the game industry.”
The Challenge of Growth
One of the biggest challenges Omer has faced at ironSource has been its rapid growth. As the company grew from thirty to eight hundred employees, with offices all over the world, it was critical for them to preserve the disruptive energy and the innovative agility they had as a startup. Staying agile as a company with a bottom-up approach to doing business is something they have stressed through what would be a difficult transition for any company.
The goal at ironSource is to constantly push for improvement and innovation, as well as expanding the company and increasing their offering. So, although Omer has experienced great satisfaction during his career, he is hoping for much more with ironSource.
Building an Innovative Team
The team members Omer is searching for are those with initiative and the ability to communicate, but he has discovered that people with initiative are difficult to find. He emphasizes, “Many people can perform a task or master a skill, but someone who takes initiative and thinks outside of the box is someone I can expect to be proactive about taking responsibility and who will come up with innovative solutions to problems that others haven’t thought of.”
He has found the key to any team project, but especially game development, is communication. At ironSource, they regularly meet in an open forum where people feel comfortable airing concerns and issues. In this way, issues and conflicts become a natural part of the process and negativity is avoided.
In fact, Omer’s favorite aspect of his job is being able to work with a team of such talented people. ironSource has been able to attract these people because the company has a reputation for giving people the resources and opportunities to realize their goals and ambitions. Because they give people the leeway to pursue their dreams, they have built a team that constantly pushes the company to grow in new directions. Omer sees his role as empowering these people who don’t need to be micromanaged and are comfortable taking the lead.
Although their inhouse game studio creates F2P apps that rely on in-app purchases for monetization, ironSource has games and apps of every type, using their marketing and monetization tools. Just as different games build and generate unique user experiences, ironSource builds tailored and customizable solutions for every game they work with.
During their game development process, they test constantly. Their testing ranges from having a friend test out a feature to running full A/B testing because, as Omer emphasizes, “It’s imperative to constantly check in with how potential users are reacting to your game, and adjust accordingly.”
ironSource is one of the largest independent mobile marketing companies, so their gaming apps can utilize their full stack solution for mobile monetization and distribution. With gaming apps, their native and rewarded video ads are most effective.
Because the user experience is paramount, ads which blend in with the look and feel of the app or that are appealing and rewarding in themselves have a much higher engagement rate.
Working with the Chinese market has been particularly challenging. ironSource quickly learned that this market requires a different approach to succeed in gaining the trust of potential clients. Since they recognized this early and were able to admit their approach wasn’t working, they were able to adjust their strategy. Now China has become one of ironSource’s most important markets and they partner with leading technology companies such as Baidu.
Anticipate How Things Change
Constantly changing technology is not something ironSource tries to keep up with. Instead, they work to anticipate how things will change and develop the tools and products that will keep them ahead of the curve. As an example, Omer describes, “We were one of the first companies to offer cross-device targeting and, looking ahead, we will be debuting products that will transform app discovery in completely unique ways.”
These days Omer is dedicating his free time to his two young daughters. As he proudly says, “They are completely absorbing.”
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.