Nov 282014
 

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Hanan Laschover – From Revolutionizing Online Video in 5min, to Growing the Next Generation of Startups at AOL

Hanan Laschover / CEO at AOL Israel

Hanan Laschover / CEO at AOL Israel

Timing is not everything, but it can sure make a big difference if you’re working on the right idea with the right people, at the right time.
And back in 2006, when Hanan Loschover co-founded Israeli startup 5min Media, never would he have imagined that only seven years later, he would be taking the seat of Israel’s CEO at one of the world’s most prestigious online brands – Internet giant AOL.

The Story Of 5min – Reaching 160 Million Users In 4 Years

2006 was the year when online video sharing boomed. Youtube, which was founded only a year earlier, was growing in crazy rates, and toward the end of the year was acquired by Google for an imaginary $1.65 Billion. Israeli-based 5min was aiming for the same playground.

Ran Harnevo / President, Video at AOL

Ran Harnevo / President, Video at AOL

“Having worked for 7 years as an engineer team leader at 888 (online gaming company), something had long itched inside me” recalls Laschover in a special interview for Startup Camel, celebrating the podcast’s 1st anniversary. “I always wanted to be my own boss, and I was waiting for the right opportunity to make that move”.

And that opportunity finally came when Laschover was approached by 5min co-founders Ran Harnevo and Tal Simantov. “Up until then I had been constantly offered to co-found different startups, but I was waiting for the right team to come. When Ran and Tal approached me, and I realized that they were for real, I was ready to leave my job at 888 within 24 hours”. 24 hours later, 5min was born.

Tal Simantov / VP Global Video Strategy at AOL

Tal Simantov / VP Global Video Strategy at AOL

“We started as an online platform for ‘How To’ videos, like how to change a diaper or how to do tricks on your BMX bike”. However, like many other startups, what 5min ended up doing was quite different: in just four years, the company had evolved into a video syndication giant – Aggregating over 100,000 instructional, knowledge and lifestyle videos across a wide variety of categories, and dynamically distributing them to partner websites such as Answers.com and video sharing platform DailyMotion. In 2010 5min was already reaching over 160 million unique monthly users, which was enough for AOL to place a bid of $65Million to buy the startup. Later
that year – the deal was secured.
“A startup is a rollercoaster” reflects Laschover, “and boy – it was a hell of a ride”!

How Do You Build A Startup Within A Corporate?

Often, most entrepreneurs who sell their company to a corporate tend to leave after a while, finding it challenging (or inconvenient) to transform from the entrepreneurial culture of a startup to the often bureaucratic policy of the corporate world. However, the story of 5min is different, with its 3 founders taking prominent positions with AOL following acquisition.

‘Tim Armstrong (CEO of AOL inc.) gave us the keys and autonomy to implement 5min in AOL. In many ways we remained independent post-acquisition, and that set the ground for us to prosper even under corporate life”.

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Today, Laschover is in the driver’s seat of AOL Israel, which has evolved from the merger of the 6 Israeli startups acquired by AOL inc. (for those still in need for proof that Israel is a startup empire, here’s an interesting piece of data: out of only 10 acquisitions that AOL has made outside the US throughout the years, 6 are of Israeli startups!) Among these companies are the famous instant messaging app ICQ, and more recently – marketing analytics company Converto.

As CEO, one of Laschover’s main goals is to maintain the entrepreneurial startup spirit through the company’s 3 R&D centers in Israel. “What we have here at AOL Israel is a corporate with a startup DNA”, he says.

And while many can talk about entrepreneurship in a corporate setting – but often fail to deliver, Laschover makes sure to back up his statement with deeds: under his leadership, the company has recently launched a new startup growth program – Nautilus (named after Jules Verne’s innovative submarine in 20,000 Miles Under the Sea).

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“We use this program to nurture and grow startups that have some synergies with one of AOL’s 3 business units: advertisement, online lifestyle brands (like TechCrunch, Huffington Post and Gadget – all owned by AOL), and membership and subscription”.

So how does it work? The company’s professionals accompany young Israeli startups for a year and provide them with consultation and access to AOL’s global network of resources and connections. AOL also provides the working space in the heart of Tel Aviv, and even funding.

“Typically we’re looking for startups in the fields of internet, online media, and internet of things”.

Click here to read more about Nautilus program at the heart of the Israeli startup scene.

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