from the May 2015 issue

Taboola attracts major investment from China's Baidu

The multi-million dollar investment will also help the Israeli content-recommendation company penetrate the Chinese market.

Chinese Internet giant Baidu Inc. (Nasdaq: BIDU) is investing millions of dollars in Israeli content recommendation company Taboola. The content-recommendation platform, founded and managed by Adam Singolda, is expected to hold an IPO within two years, and it seems Baidu wanted to board the train before it was too late. Taboola said it is a multi-million dollar deal, but has declined to name an amount.

Baidu, which is often referred to as "China's Google" because of its popular search engine, will adopt Taboola's content recommendation technology, and the strategic agreement between the parties will make it possible for the product to penetrate the Chinese. its previous, $117 million fundraising round, led by Fidelity Investments and existing investors, including Marker LLC, and private equity fund Steadfast Capital. New investors that joined the previous round include Advance Publications (parent company of Condé Nast), Comcast Ventures (Comcast's investment branch), Yahoo Japan, Arnault Group (controlling shareholder of LVMH, owner of Louis Vuitton), Italian billionaire Carlo De Benedetti (chairman of Italian media group Gruppo Editorial L'Espresso, publisher of La Repubblica). Prior to Baidu's investment, Taboola had raised a total of $157 million, so the total investment is now expected to reach $200 million.

Looking back at Singolda's statements upon the completion of the investment round in February, the expansion of the round to include Baidu seems unexpected: "During the past six months, in which we raised the current investment, demand grew to more than we wanted. We could have raised much more than $117 million, but we didn't want to, and didn't need to. The company has targets, and in the end it was decided that this would be the size of the investment round," Singolda explained at the time, in an interview with "Globes." However, Baidu is a significant player in the global Internet market, and certainly for anyone seeking access to the Chinese market. Presumably, these factors played a part in the decision to include Baidu.

"Though our roots are in China, Baidu actively seeks out innovative technology companies abroad to partner and invest with," said Peter Fang, senior director of Corporate Development at Baidu. "Taboola's remarkable vision and growth over the past few years captured the admiration of our executive team, and we're very excited about the potential of the discovery market worldwide."

"We're extremely honored to gain the support of such an esteemed global partner as Baidu," said Singolda. "We believe that discovery has massive growth potential in both existing and untapped markets around the world, and we plan to grow this new category even further with Baidu to help change the way people in China discover content they may like and never knew existed."

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report May 2015

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