Taboola hangs shingle in Bangkok

Taboola hangs shingle in Bangkok

Ad service betting on healthy publications

Mr Singolda believes Thailand shares several traits with Israel.
Mr Singolda believes Thailand shares several traits with Israel.

Taboola, a leading startup for connecting users with recommended articles and advertisements, has chosen Bangkok as its hub for Asia-Pacific because of its international talent and government support, says founder Adam Singolda.

The company, founded in Israel and headquartered in New York, came to Thailand six years ago and employs 88 people in Bangkok. The company receives support from Thailand's Board of Investment and reports having 100% year-on-year revenue growth in Asia-Pacific.

"We chose Thailand instead of Singapore because it was very important to have support and be in an environment that is very welcoming to people from all over the world. Obviously, we wanted to come to Bangkok because we knew we would have 15-20 languages spoken in the office," Mr Singolda said. "Diversity leads to innovation, and that is a similarity between Thailand and Israel."

Taboola expects to generate US$1 billion (31.8 billion baht) in revenue this year, after reaching over $900 million in 2018.

It competes directly with Google Adsense in recommending advertisements on news websites and said it has paid publishers $2 billion in ad revenue since 2012.

Eight out of 10 people in Thailand see a Taboola ad at least once a month, probably without ever hearing about the company itself. Some 70% of its business in Thailand comes from mobile devices.

"Thailand is very welcoming to people from all over the world, and Israel is as well," he said. "The most important aspects to support a healthy startup ecosystem are patience and helping companies succeed in terms of access to capital, with bigger companies helping smaller companies. Equally important is gaining access to talent, which is perhaps the biggest challenge."

Despite being a relatively small country of about 9 million people, Israel, through its tech hub of Tel Aviv, has spurred a number of internationally recognised startups like WeWork and Wix.

Mr Singolda said Thailand is quite similar and has the potential to be a "startup nation". Despite some prodding and investment, the country has yet to develop a unicorn -- a startup valued at $1 billion -- unlike regional competitors Indonesia and Singapore.

"I do think Bangkok is doing the right thing and we will continue to invest in this startup nation and hope to eventually build big companies," he said. "Even though Israel is well invested in its startups, it still takes time to grow."

As an advertisement recommendation service, Taboola is staking its future on the success of journalism and online news publications. The company hopes major publications can solve their funding issues so Taboola and news outlets can grow together.

"I'm optimistic about the future of online publications, but we are going to see some winners and losers," Mr Singolda said.

"Outlets that stake their entire future on getting traffic from Facebook, for example, could lose out if the algorithm changes. I think ads will still be the main source of revenue and maybe some publications have a subscription option as well."

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