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New York Times invests in Israeli firm OpenWeb at $1b valuation

Tel Aviv-based firm becomes Israel’s newest unicorn following $150m funding round with group of investors led by Insight Partners

Ricky Ben-David is The Times of Israel’s Startups and Business editor and reporter.

The OpenWeb team. (Courtesy)
The OpenWeb team. (Courtesy)

The New York Times Company was among a series of investors who participated in a $150 million Series E funding round for Israeli company OpenWeb, the developer of online community engagement and content solutions for publishers and brands worldwide.

The investment was led by New York-based global private equity and venture capital firm Insight Partners and Canadian investment firm Georgian Partners, valuing OpenWeb at over $1 billion and making it Israel’s newest “unicorn” — a privately held startup valued at over $1 billion — according to the announcement Wednesday. Other investors included US-Israeli venture firm Entrée Capital, Japan’s Dentsu, and Samsung Next, as well as Prof. Scott Galloway, an author and business professor at New York University who has joined OpenWeb’s Board of Directors.

Founded in 2012, OpenWeb says it builds technologies that allow publishers to foster and engage with online communities while maintaining civil discourse, increasing user retention, and reducing toxicity. The company’s software OpenWebOS helps “publishers host the engaging discussions the public is starving for, right beside the stories everyone wants to talk about,” OpenWeb says.

The company works with over 1,000 publishers globally including Hearst, a major media company that owns TV channels and stations such as ESPN and periodicals including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Houston Chronicle, Cosmopolitan and Esquire, as well as Yahoo! and News Corp., owned by the Murdoch family (of Fox News fame).

OpenWeb says it helps these publishers “gain independence from traditional social media by fueling millions of high-quality conversations across thousands of communities with more than one hundred million monthly users.” The company said it will leverage the current investment to “create a safer, democratized alternative to existing social media platforms” so they can “build first-party data relationships with their audiences.”

The company added that it also plans to expand its global presence with new offices in Canada, the Asia-Pacific China (APAC) region, and the Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) region.

OpenWeb co-founder and CEO Nadav Shoval said in a statement that the investment “marks a big step forward in our mission to improve online conversations.”

“The future of a sustainable open web depends on the ability to facilitate safe experiences while empowering destinations to build first-party data relationships with their audiences. We raised this round of investment to double down on our mission, and to bring those safer experiences to new verticals and new markets,” he added.

“Publishers have been impacted by big tech and will need to leverage data to win. OpenWeb provides this solution by utilizing AI and machine learning to incentivize healthy dialogue, decrease toxicity, and create thriving, engaged communities,” said Jeff Horing, managing director at Insight Partners.

Insight Partners has over $30 billion Assets Under Management (AUM) worldwide and has invested in over a dozen Israeli companies over the years including Wix, Lightricks, Monday.com, and Checkmarx. The New York venture firm opened an office in Israel in 2019.

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