On gentelmen and cowards

Anonymous comments (or – "talkbacks") on newspapers are one of the ugliest things in the online publishing world. In Israel the situation is even worse than the US, as it seems that the newspapers have zero concerns of liabilities over crap being published on their pages. The comments have been taken over by trolls to such an extent that it's nearly impossible to find a single intelligent comment by a person with a real name…

I've been reading some of the coverage lately of Gmul – a company acquired by Leon Recanati about a year ago. As with most stories, 99% of the comments are posted by anonymous cowards who haven't the slightest clue about what they're talking about. Leon_recanati It infuriates me to see that crap being published, and reputations ruined, so easily by people who can't be held accountable. So as someone who actually knows Leon Recanati and has worked with him, I thought I'd provide my comment, under my real name. 

Leon is an investor (via GlenRock) in the two companies that I have founded – Outbrain and Quigo. We've been working together for the past ~7 years, and have gone through some great times (like selling Quigo to AOL), and some awful times (like running out of money in the early days of Quigo).

Leon made the first investment in Quigo when we were at some of our toughest and riskiest times. During 3+ years we pitched over 50 VC's (including nearly all VC firms in Israel) and were rejected by all of them. During those years (2000 – 2004), funds were too afraid to invest in un-proven entrepreneurs with a risky business model.

We were lucky enough to meet Leon Recanati (and the wonderful team at GlenRock), at the riskiest stage of our business. After having been rejected by 50+ funds, GlenRock was the first institutional investor to provide us with financing, literally saving the company[1]. From what I could tell, Leon decided to make the investment in Quigo both because he understood the potential of Quigo's business (unlike all other funds who looked at us), and because he sees it as his mission to help young Israeli entrepreneurs.

Throughout the past ~7 years, GlenRock in general, and Leon in particular, have been a wonderful partner at both companies. They are there to support (financially and mentally) every time we hit a rough patch, and let us do our work quietly when things are well. For an entrepreneur, GlenRock is as good as an investor as you can hope for – supportive, honest and never ever stabs you in the back as many early-stage investors do.

In addition, Leon has been one of the biggest philanthropists in Israel, donating much of his family fortune back for charitable and educational causes in Israel (such as the National Science Museum in Haifa, for example). There are few people who have done for Israel – both for the business community and for charitable causes – so much.

It infuriates me to see anonymous cowards try to ruin a person's lifetime reputation. I am not familiar with the details of the specific situation at Gmul, but as someone who actually knows the people involved – I'm confident that this situation was fully inherited when the company was acquired. I'm confident that Leon & Co are doing whatever is reasonably in their power to fix the inherited problems. And I'm sure that — *whatever* the outcome in Gmul – the debt holders would be in a far worse situation had they had to deal with with the previous owners and not Leon.

It's a pity that anonymous ignorant idiots get so much exposure on mainstream newspaper sites these days… I hope this post provides a little balance on the subject matter.

[1] I should also mention Jack Lahav and some of our other angel investors who supported us during the first 3 years and made it possible for us to survive through 2003 to begin with!…


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  • John LoGioco| December 9, 2008 at 10:22PM

    As an employee of outbrain I also salute GlenRock for giving Yaron the latitude and resources to execute as he does so well. Nobody has a crystal ball, but believing in someone at a time when others pass is a special gift and as Leon and Yaron have shown, can be quite rewarding.
    That said, to Yaron’s point on newspapers allowing anonymous commenters to degrade the credibility of not only the subject matter but also the integrity of the two way conversation, there are some options that can help provide some accountability on commenters. One company, named Disqus, (who by the way outbrain works with), provides publishers with a solution to start associating commenters with profiles and cross-site comment tracking. Solutions like Disqus can’t eliminate trolls altogether, but they can help by allowing readers to quickly identify those commenters who are “gentleman” enough to back up their comments with a profile.

  • An Anonymous Coward| December 10, 2008 at 6:06AM

    I’m sure that you had a good experience working with Mr Recanati.
    However, I fail to see how it’s relevant for the current default on Gmul’s commitments. I’ve no doubt that Mr Recanati has
    invested in your ventures in return for something, e.g. equity, options or a combo. OTOH, the Gmul situation is actually an unsecured loan by the public to an entity he controls.
    Your wording is very strong, so may I humbly suggest that you’ll weigh the option of investing in Gmul in some way, either direct or indirect? Even a token amount of money will substantiate your position.
    — An ignorant idiot (your phrasing, not mine)

  • Yaron Galai| December 10, 2008 at 4:16PM

    Hey Anonymous… – I was not referring to the Gmul situation specifically, but rather to the attempt to destroy a person’s lifetime reputation in an anonymous, vicious and cowardly way. In anonymous forums like this, the trolls tend to take over the discussion. It doesn’t make sense to me that you can inflict so much damage on a person’s name without being held accountable to it at all. I thought the minimum I could do was balance that a little by sharing some of my experience in working with Leon, under my real name and with full disclosure on my connections to this.
    Also – it’s important to note, that I have not spoken with Globes during any of this… just posted my opinion on my personal blog here. The title of the article and the parts they chose to quote are their choice, not mine.
    Lastly – While I am not familiar with the details of the Gmul situation, I assume that investors who loaned the money to Gmul understood that – as with *any* loan or investment – there are risks involved. I suspect that people who ignored those risks are now trying to blame (and trash) others for those mistakes.