Startup Interview with Itamar, CEO, Anzu.io by@nataliaanzu

Startup Interview with Itamar, CEO, Anzu.io

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Anzu is the world's leading in-game advertising platform that brings sophistication of digital advertising into video gaming and esports. Co-founder and CEO of Anzu was nominated for Forbes Israel 30 under 30 in 2016. Anzu blends real-world brand ads directly into video games, esports tournaments, and live streams, opening up new audiences for brands in unprecedented creative ways. Founder says gaming is going to be a significant advertising channel for advertisers and game developers. Founder: "We want to make our solution easy to integrate for game devs, give them a working business model and a good stable revenue flow"

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HackerNoon Reporter: Please tell us briefly about your background.

I’m the Co-founder & CEO of Anzu, the world's leading in-game advertising platform that brings the sophistication of digital advertising into video gaming and esports. Before his role at Anzu, I served as the CEO of Glispa, a leading advertising firm with nine international offices and more than €100M in annual revenues. I also served as the VP of Marketing at various places. I helped the company grow into a market-leading fitness firm and led the transformation of mHealth into a business with over 40 million downloads across 30 apps. I was also nominated for Forbes Israel 30 under 30 in 2016.

What's your startup called? And in a sentence or two, what does it do?

Anzu is the world’s most advanced in-game advertising solution. Operating across mobile, PC, and console platforms, Anzu blends real-world brand ads directly into video games, esports tournaments, and live streams, opening up new audiences for brands in unprecedented creative ways.

What is the origin story?

Since day one at AppWiz, my first foray into the exciting world of ad tech, I was hooked. All those years ago, I saw ad tech as a canvas for innovation and meaningful advancements. My mission was – and is – to create products that have the power to change the way humans and ads meet and interact with one another. A core technical background coupled with a passion for business drove me to create technologies that would chart the future of digital advertising.

With over a decade in the mobile marketing space, I clearly understood the industry’s problems. So, I teamed up with gaming product guru Ben Fenster and master software architect Michael Badichi to solve the biggest issues in video game advertising which included a lack of scalable tech and cutting-edge solutions, the disruptive nature of in-game ads, and the vast gap between advertisers and developers which was leaving massive audiences inaccessible to brands. It was also getting increasingly difficult for developers to monetize without sacrificing the gaming experience. The three of us set out to make advertising in games better when we founded Anzu in 2016, and we’ve been disrupting the industry ever since!

What do you love about your team, and why are you the ones to solve this problem?

We have a fantastic team spread across the world with people from all different cultures and backgrounds working together towards our mission of shaking up the ad industry and becoming the preferred partner for games publishers and advertisers within the gaming space. We are perfectly positioned to achieve this goal as I see how passionate our people are day in, day out. Whether I’m working with sales, HR, marketing, product, or finance, everyone is excited about our vision and is doing their bit to help us get there.

If you weren’t building your startup, what would you be doing?

I think I would be building another startup!

At the moment, how do you measure success? What are your core metrics?

We have two partners, game developers and advertisers, so we measure our success differently. Firstly, we want to make our solution easy to integrate for game devs, give them a working business model and a good stable revenue flow, and help them make sure that their players are satisfied with their gaming experience.

Secondly, when it comes to advertisers, we work to provide them with an easy-to-use platform that’s accessible and affordable, and that has a strong impact, is programmatic, and works with all DSPs. Then there are standard metrics. When you play a game, you cannot neglect the content like when you’re watching TV. With gaming, you’re entirely concentrated on the game. We ensure that brands only pay for viewable impressions. When you combine this with almost non-existent fraud rates, fully viewable strong exposure is an attractive proposition. We also offer incremental reach, with gaming being one of the only ways to communicate with Gen Z.

So, as you can see, we have a strong value proposition on both sides. Success for us is continuing to build upon and improve this proposition, so we continue to attract the world’s biggest brands and games.

What’s most exciting about your traction to date?

We believe gaming is going to be a significant advertising channel. When you look at time spent vs. ad dollars, the opportunity is enormous and bigger than both the music and film industries combined.

There is a huge gap in the market, and there are technical solutions needed to help access the potential that gaming offers. Part of the work we do at Anzu is educating advertisers to help them understand how diverse gaming audiences are and that this space is where people are spending more and more of their free time.

We also help game developers understand that allowing advertisers to monetize does not take anything out of the game. Instead, it adds to the experience, making it more realistic. It also provides them with an additional revenue channel, improving existing games and creating new ones.

Gaming is a hugely untapped market that is on the verge of being unleashed, and this is all very appealing to investors. WPP is far from gaming, and Sony is far from advertising, and yet they both invested in Anzu to support our mission of bridging the gap between the two industries. With such huge, respected, experienced allies and strategic partners on both sides of the fence, we look to the future of in-game advertising with massive optimism and excitement.

What technologies are you currently most excited about and most worried about? And why?

I’m very excited about autonomous cars that will make traveling much more efficient and safe. I’m worried about technology replacing people in areas where I believe the human touch should remain.

What drew you to get published on HackerNoon? What do you like most about our platform?

I have been following HackerNoon for some time as I enjoy your tech professionals’ opinions on the latest stories and headlines from across the tech industry. Although most of the topics are about tech, programming, and its languages, gaming seems to have garnered a bit more attention recently, especially since the pandemic hit and lots of us turned to video games to pass the time. I thought your readers might like to know more about what we are doing at Anzu, especially now that we are at a very exciting time within our company’s lifecycle.

What advice would you give to the 21-year-old version of yourself?

I would advise being data-driven, ensuring that your decisions are backed up by relevant research and insights. Act fast as once you see an opportunity, it's highly likely that someone else has noticed it too. Within the fast-changing world, it's also easy for competitors to spring up and overtake you if you’re not focused on the future. The last piece of advice I would give is to hire senior people and let them do what they do best -- it’s very easy to take on everything yourself, but there comes a time when you need to look to others for help and know that they are experts within their fields for a reason.

What is something surprising you've learned this year that your contemporaries would benefit from knowing?

The past few years have taught me that we can work remotely without traveling all the time. Before the pandemic, I traveled every second week somewhere different and had been doing this for the past eight years.

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