ironsource at Startup Camel

ironSource – Delivering Digital

2-Tomer(IS)-Idan(SC)2014 was a dream year for boiling Israeli startup ironSource: the company nearly doubled its workforce (which now consists of over 500 employees worldwide); In August, it announced raising $85M in capital, and right before the year closed it became a member of VentureBeat’s prestigious Unicorn Club, alongside 19 other international companies that achieved a valuation of over 1 billion dollars.

Yet with all that hype around what is now considered one of Israel’s sexiest startups, few people actually know the story of how ironSource started, and more importantly – the powerful lesson that aspiring entrepreneurs should draw from it.

“Most people who want to open a startup initially only think about the upside part of it” says co-founder and CEO Tomer Bar Ze’ev in an interview for Startup Camel. “But life often has other plans for you, and if you’re really serious about running a startup – you must be ready to pay the price”. And when Bar Ze’ev mentions ‘price’, he sure knows what he’s talking about: “In my case, when we opened ironSource, I was married + 1, and my wife was pregnant with the second child. I needed to find a way to reduce the financial pressure so I can focus on building the startup. So my family and I left our rented apartment and moved to my parents’ house”.

Clearly, that price paid-off. Today IronSource is the world’s leading platform for software discovery, distribution, delivery and monetization. In other words, the company provides solutions to web and mobile developers to reach consumers online and sell their products.

Back to the beginning, you may imagine the company’s founders meeting at some garage with the mission to change the world, but the creation of ironSource happened completely differently. “The main motivation that gathered us founders was that some of us were really broke. So we decided to get together to develop some web products, put them in the market, and generate $3000 monthly for each of us”.

Idan Hershko (SC), Tomer Bar-Ze'ev (IS), Itamar Zur (SC)

Idan Hershko (SC), Tomer Bar-Ze’ev (IS), Itamar Zur (SC)

The first product was Foxtab – an add-on for Chrome and Firefox that helped organizing the tabs in the browser in a visual appealing view. “We invested many months to develop this product and release it to the market, only to discover that nothing happened. The product had a total of 3 users, out of the four founders” recalls Bar Ze’ev. “We realized that having the right product is simply not enough. You need to have the right distribution channels; you need to have a delivery platform, and if you want to become a business – you need a way to monetize your products”. Since Bar Ze’ev and his partners were struggling with all these issues, they decided to develop a software distribution technology for their own need. What they soon discovered, however, was that everyone else in the Web was facing the same challenges. It was then that Bar Ze’ev and his partners decided to shift the company into a platform for developers to reach consumers, and ironSource was born.

Tomer Bar-Ze'ev (IS), Idan Hershko (SC)

Tomer Bar-Ze’ev (IS), Idan Hershko (SC)


Interview Topics

  • The price of running a startup 7:47
  • Willingness to take risks 9:33
  • Building partnership with co-founders 11:20
  • Choosing the right co-founder 12:38
  • Saying no to acquisition offers 14:20
  • Building a big company 15:20
  • Bottom-Up culture 16:27
  • Recruiting talent 19:38
  • And of course – The Camel Race 28:25
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