Meet Startup @TW

Taiwan Israel innotech Summit 2017: Interview with Israeli Unicorn ironSource's GM of APAC Yoni Eyal

賀大新

Israel has become a global powerhouse for innovation and pioneering technologies. The small country with a population of only 8.5 million has been branded globally as the “Startup Nation.” IronSource, a unicorn startup with a value well over $1b according to market estimates, is widely regarded as a success story. The company wants to shape the future of mobile advertising by building tools to help mobile app developers distribute and profit from their apps.

Yoni Eyal, General Manager of APAC at ironSource, guides the company’s business in Asia Pacific. Prior to ironSource, Eyal has spent the several years in a number of leadership roles in ad firm Supersonic, for which he drove substantial revenue growth in Israel and China.

Before he moved to China, Eyal also worked for the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei (ISECO), and for a time even took part in the Mandarin language program at National Taiwan University.

Most recently, Eyal led the ironSource APAC team after the ironSource and Supersonic merger in 2015. In this function he transitioned the business to significantly improved levels of client service, employee satisfaction, and onto a path of sustained growth.

As one of the featured guests at the Taiwan Israel InnoTech Summit 2017, Eyal shared advice and lessons he has learned during an interview with BusinessNext/Meet reporter Yahsin Huang.

What is happening currently with ironSource?

My colleague and I were working out of coffee shops in Beijing when we first started in China. But very quickly the Chinese team grew from two people to 40, with an office suddenly being a reality at IronSource’s Beijing. Today, ironSource’s Beijing office manages the entire Asia Pacific market,
including Japan and Korea.

We currently have a number of divisions, including Mobile, Digital, Aura, Branded Video, and other divisions. With over 700 employees, ironSource continues to be the top choice for global tech talent. More than half of our employees are engineers and app developers.

We are proud to say that we have already secured deals with device manufacturers and tier-one carriers around the world, including well-established brands from Taiwan such as HTC and ASUS. IronSource has a business representative based in Taipei to better serve our Taiwanese clients and partners.

With ironSource’s innovative mobile ad units, which pushes content including reward videos as well as interactive ads, the company is set to expand its reach to markets in Japan, Korea, and eventually reach larger mobile market share in both Easrt Asia and the US.

How do you attract talents in Israel? What makes Israel such an attractive environment in the eyes of IT and engineering specialists?

I think ironSource is particularly attractive to talent because we are very flexible in terms of our business models. At ironSource, we are constantly looking for great ideas to advance our products. We’ve created a working environment that encourages everybody to share their thoughts and ideas without any communication barriers.

The company has a flat, non-hierarchical structure and a company culture that is open to questioning.

We’re the biggest internet company in Israel and we are still growing at a rapid speed. I think the high level of commitment and involvement from our company leaders is also a key why we continue to attract the best and brightest talents across the world.

For a country of a mere 8.5 million people, Israel has the world's highest concentration of high-tech startups per capita. How did this success come about?

I think one key is that in Israel we are developing critical thinking skills during our school education as well as problem-solving skills from our mandatory military service. We are quite aggressive and always look for ways to improve. We constantly ask questions, debate, and identify business opportunities that others have not previously thought of before.

The attitude of questioning is built into Israel’s society. Israel has always had a culture of doubt and argument. We’re not afraid to challenge our teachers, our bosses, or our authorities, partially because our education has taught us how to question everything and develop critical thinking and creative thinking skills.

We start thinking about new ideas at a very young age, in part because the mandatory military service forces young Israelis to think, and it offers a valuable experience to many of us. In Israel, men and women are required to do the military service. You’re fresh out of high school, you start to have some exercises and then someone gives you a gun. It’s a unique place where young men and women must work closely with peers from different cultural, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds.

Many of us established valuable brotherhoods and developed personal relationships that you wouldn’t have developed in anywhere else in the world.

I served in the regular army for four years as an officer and later as a commander. In the army, you learn how to be fast at solving problems under great pressure. You also learn how to work in teams. You face new situations every day, which call on you to act differently than you used to. You become quick to adapt, quick to react. It’s a great business networking opportunity, too.

** What are Taiwan’s competitive advantages? Do you see any unique strengths that might place Taiwan in a very strong position for the future of mobile marketing?**

I think the fact that Taiwan is strategically located, meaning the country is geographically next to China - the big market that nobody dares to ignore - gives Taiwan a unique opportunity to expand to other markets.

I think people in Taiwan are able to communicate at a relatively high level of English, and many are very ambitious as well. From my observation, they are influenced by Japanese and American culture. Some of my contacts in Taiwan have degrees or working experience from the U.S., and some may have lived there as well. As a result, I think that Taiwan is one of the friendliest countries for Westerners and foreigners in general.

Would you recommend startup founders to set up offices in Taiwan?

I think many startup founders or business leaders in Taiwan are initially established in Taiwan, but are also constantly thinking about how to reach out to other locations. Taiwan is a good place to start if you’re working with Taiwanese companies. If you have clients in Taiwan, it’s essential to have business operations here. But if you’re thinking to enter larger markets in the Asia Pacific region, maybe Beijing or other cities in Asia would be a better option.

Israel is a very small country, and I think its domestic market would be too small for most good ideas. That’s why startups in Israel are constantly thinking about where their next market will be at.

The same holds true here, maybe initially one can start in Taiwan, but one should always be thinking about how to reach other markets in the region.