- Eytan Elbaz: On the Art of Building Businesses
Eytan Elbaz: On the Art of Building Businesses
How the LA Legend Thinks About Entrepreneurship
Good morning Los Angeles!
If you want to be featured or know folks who want to be featured, feel free to contact me on LinkedIn. This week, we talked to entrepreneur Eytan Elbaz, serial entrepreneur who has spent his career building companies in the ads, media, content, and web3 worlds.
🏃♀️ Quick hits
The Founder: Eytan Elbaz is a serial entrepreneur, with a big start in his company being acquired by Google, and translating that success and the learnings into multiple startups with cofounders he loves.
The Company: AfterParty, currently in stealth on a new project, previously working on creator opportunities in the web3 space.
Tip: Reach out to Eytan if you’re a founder working on a technical project that needs mentorship and maybe even angel investment.
Eytan and his flock of companies
Eytan Elbaz has been starting and building tech companies for over 20 years. He co-founded Applied Semantics in 1998, which became AdSense, Google’s killer app for Search monetization. After selling Applied Semantics to Google in 2003, Elbaz went on to co-found mobile gaming company Scopely in 2011 and influencer marketing platform Social Native in 2015.
With a calm and considered demeanor, Eytan reflected with us on his entrepreneurial journey, the lessons he’s learned, and how he views the future.
Building Teams and Culture
After his success with Applied Semantics, Elbaz realized the critical importance of finding the right co-founder. "I think in general, if there were an Eytan Elbaz model for co-founding a company, which I think really changed after Google… it is is picking the right founder. And so I was more concerned with picking the right founder than I was with what the business would be. And so I think getting to know [Scopely co-founder and co-CEO] Walter in 2010 and the caliber of the kind of person he is, I just knew I wanted to be in business with him."
Essentially, building a great team, for Eytan, comes before coming up with ideas and execution. As Eytan elaborates: “At Scopely, we certainly tried a handful of things. We probably tried four or five businesses before we got to games.” After they got to games, however, they took off. They built chart-topping mobile games like Monopoly GO and Walking Dead: Road to Survival, which eventually led to the company’s $4.9B acquisition by Saudi Arabia’s Savvy Games Group earlier this summer.
Key to Elbaz's success has been constantly iterating products based on customer feedback. "Constant iteration, constant pulling data back from customers and trying to figure out what is working and heading in that direction or seeing that just nothing is working and you really need to just dramatically change that product or put it down," he explained.
Applied Semantics is a good example of this. After two years of initial attempts to find customers for the company failed. But the team knew it was a good idea, so they retooled it and eventually relaunched successfully. But how did Eytan know whether to keep going?
Maintaining Startup Intensity
Elbaz stressed the importance of maintaining an intense commitment and optimism as a founder. "You need the intensity. You need to be unwavering in your commitment not to lose. So maybe being hard on yourself. So I would just say accept your journey. Like do what you're doing, work hard, and accept that this is the journey," he said.
He added that at any given time, "at least one of the co-founders has to be really optimistic...Somebody has to still believe because the problem with a startup is so many times we're filled with just like...There's so many hard walls wherever we're trying to get through."
Opportunities and Entrepreneurs
When asked what he's excited about today, Elbaz pointed to huge opportunities in agriculture and housing. "I think there's so much to do in agriculture. I think there's so much to do in housing. There's just so many ideas out there, I think, and I'd love to connect with awesome, hardworking, gritty entrepreneurs who are working on these hard problems and seeing if I can help them in my little way."
Eytan is excited to be mentoring other potential entrepreneurs and even angel investing, so reach out if you are looking for help building your next company!
"I think I can be really valuable to entrepreneurs who are starting their journey. And be a sounding board, help them iterate on product, try to open up my Rolodex where available and in many cases even be a kind of startup therapist. I'm finding it's rewarding for me to just see it come together."