Company integrity – having a Single Story

One of the paramount aspects for us at Outbrain, since the day we started, is maintaining the company’s integrity. There are many different ways we make integrity the core of our company DNA,  but having a “single story” is probably one of the most important ones.

The ‘single story’ principle means that there’s not the slightest difference between the spirit of what is said or expected from our team internally, to what is said to our investors, to what is said to our partners and clients or publicly to the press. If we say we stick to a certain principle, there’s no winking, or lip service, to *any* of our constituencies. For example, when we say that publishers are our true partners, there’s no backroom dealings of any kind that would undermine that in any way. When we announce publicly that we don’t accept any misleading advertisers, it’s my expectation from my team that we strive to comply with that as strictly as we can, even if it costs us dearly in lost revenue. And its the same single story that my investors (existing AND potential) would hear. It’s that same single story I wouldn’t mind having printed on the front page of the NYT’s, because I’d be proud standing behind it with all the constituents that are part of Outbrain.

So many companies in our space seem to put a facade of similar integrity, yet at the same time maintain multiple different stories – one for the market, a very different one for employees, and a very different one for investors. In the short run these facades can probably work. But I suspect that in the long run it’s impossible to hold onto different stories for different constituencies. Integrity in that sense is a lot like a pregnancy – you can’t be half-pregnant, and you can’t run a company with integrity on some fronts but not others. It’s either a principle you stick to, and then *always* do, with all constituencies. Or it’s not.

In short: Business needs can be turned on or off for integrity; but integrity can never be turned on or off in the face of business needs.5 Comments

Acquiring Surphace

Surphace_logo Today we (=Outbrain) announced the acquisition of Surphace from AOL. This is a big step for us, and obviously – its our first acquisition ever. I’ve been wanting to do this for quite a while, but now finally all the pieces fell in place and we could get the acquisition deal done.

I’ve already heard a bunch of speculations on why we did this deal, but at the end of the day it’s fairly simple and straightforward. Our mission with Outbrain is to present as many readers with links to interesting content. We see this as an important thing to do for de-polluting the web from all the crappy interruption advertising we see all over the place (and obviously we believe this is good business too!… :-). Our service has proved itself on practically every publisher that has used it to date, and so now is the time to deploy it on a much bigger scale and improve the user experience for many new readers.

I wrote about the specific reasons we acquired Surphace here. Ultimately, it’s about establishing a clear leader in the content discovery space, and providing a better service to readers and our partner publishers.

More coverage on the Surphace blog, All Things D, VC Cafe and PaidContent. Press release here.

Exciting days!Leave a comment