Israel’s iBario is a web conglomerate that, over seven years, has grown to be one of the world’s biggest Internet marketing companies, building a top-tier downloading platform, shopping site, recipe site, Internet speed measuring site, question and answer information site and reaching one of Google’s biggest advertising partners, becoming the target of jealousy from other sites which can’t accomplish even one of these tasks.
“We want to build an online empire, and operate everything from Israel,” said Felix Leshno, marketing director and one of the five partner-owners of iBario, a company with a major foothold in many corners of the Internet and an ever-growing base of users and business partners. In the company’s first interview with English-language media, Leshno said that iBario “is building this empire in Israel, and we intend to keep it here.”
Operating from a modest industrial building in the Tel Aviv suburb of Or Yehuda, iBario is estimated by industry experts to be worth around $100 million. Since it is privately owned and funded and not beholden to investors, it does not publish annual reports and other information about its activities. The figures on the traffic for the websites and advertising networks the company operates is attainable from various web metrics companies, and those figures show that many of iBario’s 16 brands, along with its RevenueHits ad network, are at the top of their categories, said Leshno.
For example, download site Softango is the fourth largest download site in the world, according to iBario figures, with 20-30 million downloads per month. Globally, iBario’s Mayajo recipe site is one of the top in its genre, ranking higher than sites like Recipe.com and BigOven. And Speedanalysis.com, which checks users’ online connection speeds, gets 100 million unique users each month, said Leshno. Other iBario sites include Unknown File, which tells users what program uses which file extension; PC Performer, which analyzes computers and suggests ways of making them run faster; and Jet, iBario’s own browser, notable for its built-in Torrent engine for downloading movies and music.
“Our brands are in three areas — information, downloads and retail,” said Leshno. Special Savings and SeeSimilar, two iBario brands, are in that latter category. With SeeSimilar, users can enter the name of a product, such as “Levi’s button-fly jeans,” and price comparisons will pop up from iBario partner sites, which include nearly all large web retailers, along with similar products, such as Lee and Wrangler jeans, which might appeal to the customer, but are slightly less expensive. Special Savings is a coupon site where typing in that term will yield any number of deals on Levi’s jeans — buy one, get one half-off, for example.
“We try to cover a wide range of interests, and develop sites for different kinds of customers,” said Leshno. “For example, SeeSimilar is for a potential buyer who has just begun the shopping process and is checking out the possibilities, while Special Savings would appeal to customers who have made a buying decision and are looking to save some money.”
The company also has two game sites. Leshno said that, for now, iBario is not concentrating on games, although that would change in the future.
IBario is a one-stop shop, with everything from research to testing to content creation done in-house. “We do not outsource any of our work abroad, or to other companies in Israel,” said Leshno. “We prefer to build our assets from scratch, manage, market and monetize them, sell ads and obtain traffic. We do it all.” The sites offer solid services, with all development done by various teams of the 70-plus employees of iBario. Business is good, said Leshno, so good that the company plans to add at least another 30 workers by the end of the year, and more after that.
All the content on iBario’s site is original, developed by native English-speaking editors working either at iBario’s offices or at home. “We have a staff of editors but we are also freelance, and when we do we usually take all the freelancer’s time, so they are essentially working for us full time. We also have our own teams of social media people who develop viral campaigns to attract people to our sites,” said Leshno.
The whole empire is financed by ads, which are presented at every opportunity. “We have our own ad network called RevenueHits, which serves ads to users on our sites,” said Leshno. “We are one of the biggest Google Adwords buyers in Israel and Europe, our platform also serves up banner ads of all sizes, and we are part of several local and worldwide advertising networks.” Industry analysts believe that RevenueHits accounts for over 40 percent of iBario’s revenues, with the rest coming from Google Adwords and partnerships on the download and shopping sites.
IBario is insistent that all work be done in Israel, said Leshno. “We don’t believe in outsourcing, because the hassles — such as poor quality work, whether in content or programming — aren’t worth the money you think you are saving.” When the work needs to be redone because it isn’t up to par, “you end up spending more than you would have if you kept the work close to home, where you could keep an eye on it and ensure you are getting what you want.”
As a major Google partner and presence, iBario is acutely aware of quality issues. “Google is in business to make money, but having worked with them for many years, I know they are also very focused on the user experience,” said Leshno. “So if you try to hand them bad content, you will find your sites shunted to the ‘back of the line,’ off the first page of the search engine and away from the users.”
It’s not just about the quality, said Leshno. He and his partners — Emil “Paz” Pozaylov, Yefi Gureni, Pavel Sandler and Mike Peters — were all successful Israeli business owners before starting iBario in 2007. They all believe in Israel as the Start-Up Nation, and are just as interested in developing a big Israeli web company as they are in making money. Leshno did Internet marketing work for numerous companies before helping to form iBario and was one of the world’s top affiliate marketers.
“Even though we could probably set up an IPO at the drop of a hat, we decided not to go down that road, and the company is 100% self-funded,” said Leshno. “This way we keep control of the company — from quality to hiring decisions to location. We believe in the future of Israel, our families and employees’ families are here and we appreciate what they’ve done to make this company so great. We know we have a ways to go to get to the level of the biggest companies in this space, like IAC [Interactive Corp.], but I have no doubt we will get there. And we will be doing it from Israel.”