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Inside Israeli Technology

Browsing Posts tagged Bob Rosenschein

Israel-Conference-Speaker-Itzik-Cohen

Itzik Cohen, Founder and CEO of ClipSync speaking at The Israel Conference in 2009. Image courtesy of The Israel Conference.

Yossi Vardi was recently interviewed about the upcoming second annual Israel Conference in LA that he is co-chairing. The conference will include speakers from Israeli companies in the cleantech, enterprise and mobile sectors among others.

Asked about what the business connection is between Israel and Southern California, he responded,

“I’ve come to visit Southern California and a number of startups, and always find I have to prolong my visit, because of the interest and very strong links. There’s lots of potential between the new media community in Los Angeles, the telecom industry in San Diego, all across this corridor between Los Angeles and San Diego, and Israel. There are 10′s and 10′s and 10′s of companies interested in Israel, mainly because new media and telecom, which are two of the major components of Israel’s high tech industry. Qualcomm has a huge development center in Israel, as do other companies. There’s a very high level of affinity.”

The goal of the one-day event is to take advantage of this by helping Israeli startups to expand business and investment opportunities between Israel and California. Over $10 billion of investable capital will be represented by some of the largest venture capital firms that invest in Israel, including Sequoia Capital, Shamrock Holdings and Giza Venture Capital.

Some facts about Israel and its ties to California include:

  • More than 3,000 start-ups have been launched in Israel, second only to the United States.
  • Significant Israeli companies have corporate offices in California with job creation in the hundreds of thousands worldwide.  A number of these are Fortune 500 companies such as Check Point, SanDisk, Magic Software, VocalTec Communications, AudioCodes, and Amdocs.
  • In 2009, foreign direct investment in Israel reached $3.8 billion.
  • Israeli high-tech capital raising in 2009 reached $1.12 billion across 447 Israeli high-tech companies, with 124 companies raising $275 million in the fourth quarter.  Sixty-seven companies attracted more than $1 million each.

Returning to the conference this year will be Bob Rosenschein, the CEO and Founder of Answers.com, one of the twenty most-visited sites on the web.

In the first post of this series, I wrote about The Israel Conference which took place in LA last week and how its purpose was “to showcase Israeli excellence in technology and products and to expand business and investment opportunities between Israel and California.”

The conference had more than $20 billion in capital represented and brought together over 50 Israel-facing companies for a day full of presentations and advice from some of Israel’s most well-known investors (Jeff Pulver and Yossi Vardi) and most successful startups (i.e., Check Point, Tigo Energy, Answers.com, etc.).

rosenacom

Bob Rosenschein

Answers.com is one of the most interesting websites coming out of Israel. It was founded by current CEO, Bob Rosenchein in 1999 as GuruNet and struggled as a desktop software company before its reincarnation as the Web-based answers service, Answers.com in January 2005.

The site which used to dub itself an “encyclodictionalmanacapedia” started out licensing content from encyclopedias and dictionary companies, such as Barron’s, Miriam-Webster and Wikipedia among over 250 others. In November 2006, the company acquired the user-generated Q&A site, FAQ Farm and renamed it WikiAnswers.com.

WikiAnswers has since fueled Answers.com’s current growth, which, in a recent interview I had with Bob Rosenschein, he attributes to a successful cycle of “Traffic. Questions. Answers”- traffic leads to questions being asked which leads to questions being answered on a continuous basis.

WikiAnswers

WikiAnswers

The increased traffic has led Answers.com to become one of the top 20 fastest growing websites in 2009 and the site to become profitable.

“The biggest news of 2008 for us was that in the second half of 2008 Answers.com turned profitable,” Rosenschein explains.

Answers.com’s profitability isn’t just from an increase in traffic though. As it has shown from its GuruNet days, it isn’t afraid to make changes and tweaks to anything. To increase profitability, the company changed its revenue model in 2008 moving from direct ads to display ads and performance ads, “the performance ads being the most profitable.”

Among the constant tweaks the company is making, we can expect to see in the next year “improvements in search, more functionality and internationalism.” The site will be made available in the languages of non-English countries that currently provide significant traffic to the site.

Rosenschein’s advice to startups is, “Be flexible. Roll with the punches, hold onto cash and be able to adapt. The most important thing is perseverance- don’t give up too quickly.”

Update June 15, 2009 Globes reported today that Answers.com has raised an additional $7 million from Redpoint Ventures.

(Disclaimer: As part of a work experience program in the summer of 2006,  I interned at Answers.com in Jerusalem for six weeks.)