Our Culture Manifesto

Building the future of discovery requires the right culture.

Hello Outbrainers!

We are happy to share with you the official Outbrain Culture Manifesto.

It has been over a decade since we started the company and while we feel that we’ve built a strong company culture, we’ve never really formalized it, nor communicated it.

Our culture and values are things we strive to live by, and work by. And while the fundamental core spirit of these are permanent, our culture will constantly be evolving and progressing.

As we continue growing and scaling globally, we need better tools to maintain our cultural backbone, and to make sure that with all the great diversity we get from all the countries we operate in, we still always share a core set of values and behaviors across the company.

So, we created this document - Our Culture Manifesto.

What is written here should be our guiding light, or principles, for everything we do at Outbrain and it should be manifested into our day to day actions and behaviors. Sometimes some of the principles might contradict each other in corner cases. We trust you to use your best judgment and common sense, and use the values and behaviors described here as a guiding spirit, not a legal document.

This manifesto is a living document. Like our company culture, it will be updated from time to time as we see a need for it. It will be kept as an open document where we, as well as our future company leadership, can add or edit chapters within it.

We're very proud of you, our team that has formed our culture over the years, and we’re excited to hand you this document. We think you’ll find it interesting as it gives an observation of who we are as a team, what we stand for, and what it means to work at Outbrain.

It also captures our thoughts of what culture we desire to have moving forward.

Glad to have you with us and enjoy the reading.

Yaron & Ori

Our Lighthouse

Our Lighthouse defines why we started the company, as well as where we aspire to progress to for many years to come. For sailors, a lighthouse is a reference point that guides ships to head in the right direction.

Outbrain's mission, which we call Our Lighthouse, is to create the most meaningful and trustworthy online discovery feeds connecting a person, channel and marketer.

We always aspire to fulfill our mission, but the journey of a company is very similar to sailing a ship. There can be many obstacles below and above the surface, strong currents and waves as well as powerful winds that force you to change course in order to get to your destination. As long as we always maintain sight of Our Lighthouse, we should be able to be prepared for changes in course to better accommodate the winds and waves.

This is the role of Our Lighthouse, to always remind all of us why we started the company and what we want to achieve. We use it from time to time to examine our business decisions and see that we maintain a clear sight of Our Lighthouse and stay true to our mission statement.

Let’s focus on a few of the key parts of the Lighthouse:

  • Discovery.  Our mission is to delight people with discoveries that are meaningful to each of them. Stories (whether in written form, or video, or audio) are core to discovery, and have been the core of the company since its inception. But a great discovery experience should include many things - products, music, local updates like weather, restaurants, etc. If a person we reach might be delighted by a discovery of some sort, we should strive to surface that type of discovery over time.")
  • A Person, a Channel, and a Marketer. We serve three constituents, all incredibly important for our business:
  • Marketers.  These are our customers. Serving them well, exposing them to the audience they are seeking to reach, and delivering to them an ROI higher than our competition will ensure that we can continue to pursue Our Lighthouse for many years to come.
  • Channels.  These are the conduits to people. During our first decade we defined this narrowly as “Publishers.” As we enter our second decade, we seek to expand this to a much broader set of channel partners. Publishers will always be core to our partnerships. But as we enter the 2020’s, people discover stories, products, etc., in many different places that are not necessarily publishers - mobile phones, browsers, lock screens, apps, TV’s, watches, VR/AR devices, etc, etc. We want to make sure Outbrain’s Discovery Feeds are ultimately everywhere people might find them valuable, when they are in a discovery state of mind.
  • Person.  While not business partners per se, it’s critical that we remember that the people who we serve are paramount to our mission, and to the health of our business for decades to come. In the day-to-day commotion of the business it is easy to forget the people receiving our recommendations and what’s meaningful to them. It is up to each of us to make sure they are a core consideration for every product we build, every link we choose to serve, and every business relationship we enter.
  • Meaningful.  In serving our three core constituents above, it’s important that we find the intersections that are meaningful for each of them. “Meaningful” for a marketer serving an ad might mean something completely different than “meaningful” for the person seeing that ad. We don’t choose one constituent as superior over the other. The magic is in finding how to maximize the collective benefit of what’s most meaningful for our three constituents combined.
    • What marketers may find the most meaningful: lowering CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) or better audience targeting capabilities or more exposure for their brand.
    • Some channels might find RPM’s and revenue to be most meaningful, while others might prefer user-experience and long-term engagement.
    • Some people might find deep, long-form articles that are informative and educational to be most meaningful to them. Others might find that light-hearted, entertaining stories about their favorite celebrities to be meaningful to them. Relevancy and context might be most meaningful for some, while serendipity is most meaningful for others.
  • Trustworthy.  The word “trust” has been a key part of our mission since the first day the company existed. It’s a key part of our company values of integrity & trust. Many companies in our space treat trust as “lip service” or in cases where they can quantify the ROI on it. We don’t deploy trust selectively as an ROI exercise. We aspire to be the most trustworthy discovery platform for our constituents because we believe it’s the most important fabric for journalism, for democracy, for sustainable discovery, and as value for us individuals.

tldr; Outbrain's mission, which we call Our Lighthouse, is to create the most meaningful and trustworthy online discovery feeds connecting a person, channel and marketer.

Respect

At Outbrain, we treat employees, clients, vendors, and potential Outbrainers, with respect regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religious preference, seniority, or any other characteristic. A useful “tool” that we use, and encourage each of you to use as well: Imagine that every person you meet in a professional setting might one day be working with you in one of two scenarios:

  • Imagine they might one day be your direct report,
  • Imagine they might one day be your boss.

Force yourself to imagine this about *every* person you interact with, and the respect we expect from every Outbrainer towards everyone else will naturally emerge.

tldr; Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Diversity & Inclusion

We strive to make Outbrain diverse at all levels of the company, and in all types of jobs. However, diversity is not the objective itself. It is the outcome, and the measure, of whether we built a culture of true inclusion and empowerment. We must always hire and promote people based on qualifications and merit (and the embodiment of this Culture Manifesto!) This is not in conflict with the objectives of inclusion and empowerment.

There are many ways in which a culture of inclusion and empowerment can manifest themselves. Although we’re proud of what already exists in the core of our culture, we strive to always do better on this front. Here are a few examples:

  • Over the span of hiring/promoting for a manager’s team, we expect every Outbrain manager to ensure that underrepresented groups (whether racial, ethnic, religious, etc.) are represented in the pool of candidates we interview and consider. That’s an example of the principle above - by pursuing a culture of inclusion, we expect the ultimate outcome of diversity.
  • On the same token, it’s unacceptable to hire/promote for a role at Outbrain, without considering both men and women for the job.
  • Life happenings - number of kids, pregnancy, single-parent, disability, etc. — should never be a consideration when hiring/promoting for a job. More so, we should, when possible, see how we can help empower the best candidates regardless of personal circumstances to take the role and help them execute on it successfully over time.

As Outbrainers, we pride ourselves with the fact that our team is built from many different nationalities and cultures. This diversity, resulting from a culture of inclusion and empowerment, is a significant contributor to our strength and success. The ability to have different perspectives around the room, different opinions and ideas is undeniably powerful. We should always embrace our differences and respect each other for that.

tldr; We achieve diversity by pursuing a culture of inclusion and empowerment. This is a source of our strength and success.

Integrity

One of the paramount aspects for us at Outbrain, since the day we started, is maintaining the company’s integrity. There are many different ways we make integrity the core of our company DNA, but having a “single story” is the single most important driver.

The “single story” principle means that there’s not the slightest difference between the spirit of what is said or expected from our team internally, to what is said to our investors, to what is said to our partners and clients, or publicly to the press. If we say we stick to a certain principle, there’s no winking, or lip service, to any of our constituencies.

For example, when we say that publishers are our true partners, there are no backroom dealings of any kind that would undermine our relationship in any way. When we announce publicly that we don’t accept any fake or misleading advertising, we pursue that wholeheartedly, even if it may cost us dearly in revenue.

And it's the same message that our investors, both existing and potential, would hear. It’s that same singular story that we wouldn’t mind having printed on the front page of The New York Times because we’d be proud standing behind it with all the constituents that are part of Outbrain.

Many companies put a façade of integrity, yet maintain multiple different stories – one for the market, a very different one internally, and sometimes even a different one when dealing with the government or regulation. In the short run, these façades may work. But in the long run, it’s impossible to hold onto different stories for different constituencies, while maintaining true integrity.

tldr; Business needs can be turned on or off for the sake of integrity; but integrity can never be turned on or off for the sake of business needs.

Decision-Making

As the leaders of the company, it has been important for us to build from day one a culture that empowers people throughout the company to make decisions and act upon them. The ability to make decisions at all levels of the company, and be accountable for them is paramount for scaling the company.

Here are a few principles that reflect the company’s culture and values as it relates to decision making:

  • Teams discuss; the owner decides - We encourage disagreement and debate, and discourage “yesmenship”. You were hired into Outbrain because we value your intelligence and experience. But that should not be confused with a culture of consensus-seeking, or ‘paralysis by analysis’. After a subject is debated, and opinions/disagreements are considered, we expect the owner to make a clear decision.
  • Disagree & Commit* - For us to execute like an efficient machine, we need to all agree to ‘Disagree & Commit’. Debates happen before the owner makes a decision. But once a decision has been made, we are all equally committed to executing on that decision, with gusto. Our commitment to execution on the owner’s decision should be regardless of our opinions before that decision was made. If we all stick to this principle, we’ll save valuable time that might be wasted on trying to seek consensus.
  • Long-Term - Some decisions align the long-term nicely with the short-term considerations. In other decisions, these can be in conflict. In general, we’ve always built Outbrain for long-term sustainability, and we would like for you to do the same: When faced with a dilemma of short-term vs long-term, always try to go for the smarter long-term decision. That said, there are a couple of nuances:

The long-term benefits can only be reaped, if we survive and thrive in the short-term. To build the first organic farms, the farmers themselves sometimes had to eat non-organic food in order to survive. That is OK!

For aggressive execution, we sometimes need to go for “quick & dirty” solutions. Don’t hesitate to make those decisions, but stay minded to the long-term consequences of those.

*Credit to Jeff Bezos for coining this.

tldr; Set an owner; commit to aggressive execution on the owner’s decisions. When ST and LT are in conflict, err on the side of the smarter Long Term decisions.

Expand Your Toolbox

(Continued Learning)

To achieve excellence in your craft, it’s important that you build a comprehensive toolbox, as well as the skills needed to use your tools.

Like a plumber or electrician that fix a leaky pipe or tackle a construction project, every day we come to work and face a variety of challenges. One might be selling to a new client while another is architecting a complex piece of code.

And like that plumber or electrician, there are two factors that determine the quality of our work:

  • The toolbox we’ve built for our specific craft.
  • Our know-how and expertise in using our toolbox.

Do you have the right tools in your “job toolbox”? Do you know how to operate each of these tools at an expert level?

In our case, the most important tools usually evolve around knowledge. Knowledge in languages, systems, and infrastructures. Knowledge and proficiency in our domain. Deep knowledge of the product we’re selling, or the state of the competition. Knowledge and understanding of our customers’ challenges and aspirations.

Wrapping your head around all the knowledge that will make you an elite professional in your craft can be daunting. Instead, work towards getting better at your craft every single day. Outbrain can assist in this, but your toolbox is ultimately your responsibility:

  • Outbrain can provide the professional literature; It’s your responsibility to read them.
  • OBU is a fantastic asset with courses on a variety of subjects. But it only develops your toolbox if you actually take courses.
  • And the same applies for all other tools - conferences, podcasts, etc.

When we lose a deal or mess up a product release - schedule a take-in. Those are great opportunities for learning and expanding your toolbox.

Our company toolbox is the union of all the toolboxes of its employees. When you add a tool to your toolbox, the company’s toolbox grows and it is more capable to face the next challenge.

tldr; Success or failure, each challenge we face is a golden learning opportunity. Embrace & learn!

Excellence

Our work at Outbrain touches hundreds of people internally, and many millions of people around the world. After you finish crafting something, many more people will “inherit” your work in the future and either enjoy or suffer from it.

We are all craftspeople, and the quality of your craft will become your reputation.

When you look back at your work - Are you proud of the quality of your craft? Are you delivering at the level of quality you are expecting from others? Does your work allow for others to build on top of it at the highest quality?

This aspiration for excellence relates to every corner of Outbrain - whether it’s the code powering our product, the quarterly review with our clients, the quality of our contracts and financial reports, or the quality of our office maintenance.

The scouts have a tradition when hiking: After they depart their basecamp, they always leave it tidier than the state they found it in. That is a great way to think of your craft. Think of the person that you will be handing your domain over to sometime in the future. Will you be proud to hand it over? Will they have deep respect for the state of the domain they inherited from you?

tldr; The excellence of your craft is your long term reputation.

Use Data As Your Driver

Debating priorities and resources is a source of strength. Outbrain is better when more diverse perspectives are considered. But be careful of the “I think, you think” type of arguments, as those tend to be a waste of time and can get frustrating. A debate is much more powerful when it’s based on actual hard data, rather than opinions.

When we decided to start the company, we spoke with Nahum Sharfman1, a friend and a very experienced entrepreneur and founder of an Internet company that we respected. We told him about the type of company we were planning to start and shared the idea behind it.

He asked, “Are you asking me if I think it will succeed? Then I have to say - I don’t know! In fact, nobody knows! Those who claim to know everything are usually the most ignorant. Now… do you believe it’s a significant business? If so, go build it and best of luck! Oh, and one more thing: Don’t forget to look at the numbers, they always tell the truth!”

He couldn’t have been more right. All people have opinions about how things might work in reality, and some people are better at marketing their opinions than others. However, numbers don’t lie.

Set KPIs. Explain to yourself and to people you lead why these KPIs matter most to the business or the audience and then execute well to move the needle on them. Follow those KPIs to the letter. If they go in the right direction, see how you can scale them to the next level. If they don’t, don’t hesitate to change course and change fast.

1 Founder of Shopping.com, which is now eBay.

tldr; Without real data coming from real users, a thesis is just someone’s opinion.

Trust "The Other Side"

Trust in global teammates is the underestimated secret weapon for scaling companies. On the flipside, organizations that lack a fabric of trust between peers are usually doomed organizations.

What we found over many years of working with many smart people is that when working over distances (whether geographical, cultural, professional, etc) - it is human nature to assume that “the other side” is stupid and lazy.

  • “The engineers didn’t build the products I told them the customers want because they are stupid about our business”.
  • “The sales people didn’t sell my genius piece of code because they are stupid about our product”.

These sentiments can metastasize inside organizations and become disastrous.

You earn trust by giving your peers the same trust you expect to receive. In the examples above, if you are selling our products - trust that your peer building the product is busting their ass to build the right product, and make it great for you and for our customers. And if you’re an engineer - trust that the person selling your code at Outbrain is an elite craftsperson in the art of sales.

Here are a few useful ways to build trust with your peers -

  • Accountability - When you commit to something, stand behind your commitment and deliver professional results on time.
  • Open lines of communication - Update frequently about status, proactively bring people into the channels of communication.
  • When tone matters, insist on F2F - Email and text is a great form of communication for many things. But it is absolutely terrible for conveying tone. If the tone of your communication might be misunderstood, communicate face-to-face (whether physically, or via video chat).
  • Don’t be a stranger - Make sure your peers and customers know you, and you know them! Get familiar with them even if they’re in a different office or country.
  • Bond - When possible, make sure you bond and experience things with your peers and customers. There’s no better ingredient for building trust than breaking bread together.

One other way to earn trust is to be radically transparent. As humans we appreciate direct communication much more than vague messages that are left open for interpretation. If you want to be trusted and have something to say to someone, simply say it. Regardless of this person’s title or seniority, etc. Constructive criticism should always be appreciated from anyone and at any time!

tldr; Trust that “the Other Side” is wicked smart about our business, and is busting their ass to help our team win.

Respect

At Outbrain, we treat employees, clients, vendors, and potential Outbrainers, with respect regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religious preference, seniority, or any other characteristic. A useful “tool” that we use, and encourage each of you to use as well: Imagine that every person you meet in a professional setting might one day be working with you in one of two scenarios:

  • Imagine they might one day be your direct report,
  • Imagine they might one day be your boss.

Force yourself to imagine this about *every* person you interact with, and the respect we expect from every Outbrainer towards everyone else will naturally emerge.

tldr; Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Trust | Our Fundamental Currency

An ad-based business can be confusing, since it’s very unique in that the user is not the customer. In most companies, you only get business (and repeat business) if you’ve earned the trust of your users, which are also the paying customers. So intuitively most companies understand that trust is paramount for their business.

Because of this dynamic for ad-based companies, not only are trust and revenue not tightly coupled, but in the short term they can even seem contradicting! If you’re just focused on the here & now, there are many ways to increase immediate revenues by breaching the user’s trust. Clickbait and Fake News are good examples of that.

In the long run however, trust is the most fundamental currency of all publishing. People will only come back to publishers and publishers’ links that they can trust to be serving them well. Remember - people don’t trust a publisher more because the publisher generated more revenues on their visit...

That is why the fundamental currency of our business (and of our publisher partners, whether they realise it or not), is not the $$/€€/££/₪₪/¥¥/etc., but rather - it’s the user’s trust.

Since this is not naturally intuitive in our market, it is paramount that we as Outbrainers constantly remind ourselves the critical importance of users’ trust in everything we do. And, make sure that it’s fundamentally baked into every aspect of our product and our business.

tldr; User trust is our long-term currency and of our partners’ business.

Minimizing Risks vs. Maximizing Opportunities

Growth and progress on KPI’s is the lifeblood of a company.

Planning is an important part of any growth. Discussions and meetings can be important for refining goals together, and figuring out great plans. But it’s paramount to remember that there is tremendous value in being able to make decisive decisions, and then to aggressively execute on them.

As Outbrainers it’s our responsibility to make sure we don’t fall into the “paralysis by analysis” trap. Lets not confuse robust planning with avoidance of decisions and execution.

In most cases, we’re not dealing with life or death decisions*. Sure - any mistake we make could be costly. As humans, we have a strong bias towards avoiding mistakes, as the cost of those is very visible and can be embarrassing. On the flip side, we tend to ignore opportunity cost, which is the cost we all pay for decisions not made or for slow execution. But while one cost is visible and the other mostly invisible, both can cost dearly for the company.

The following questions are very helpful for figuring out the true cost of mistakes:

  • If I wait longer for decisions or execution - what is our opportunity cost?
  • If I take action now, and it ends up being a mistake - Can I undo that mistake quickly? How costly would it be to undo?

It’s okay to make mistakes IF we learn from them and succeed next time. Sometimes it’s better to quickly address a mistake than wait for a consensus, just to be on the “safe side” while missing the opportunity train.

*In those situations, please please do not hasten the decision!

tldr; While mistakes can be costly, being slow on decisions and execution can be even costlier.

Get Stuff Done*

(Tachles)

Tachles (pronounced “Talk-Less”**) means in Hebrew - lets cut to the chase, and make things happen.

Procrastinating on things is easy, but not fun. Making things happen is hard, but much more satisfying. These principles are 10x more important, on things that involve other people like your co-workers.

We value a culture of ‘tachles - lets get stuff done!’ If we decide on a project, or if you’re given a task - it is your responsibility to cut through delays and procrastinations, and GET STUFF DONE.

Drive products to delivery.

Drive leads/deals towards closure.

This principle truly takes a village - commit to yourself, as well as to your fellow Outbrainers, to drive the things that are on your plate aggressively to closure.

*You know what we mean...

**Thanks Eytan for the perfect pronunciation/translation

tldr; Get stuff done!

People

(A Team of MVPs)

As we continue growing our team, and become more diverse culturally and geographically, we want to make sure we keep a shared core amongst the people that become Outbrainers.

Who are the people we want on our team and what are their characteristics?

  • Smart and get things done* - There are many great attributes companies can seek in the candidates they hire - academic degrees, deep industry expertise, hands-on work experience, etc., etc. For Outbrainers we seek, above all else, the combination of being smart, and getting things done.
  • Teamplayer > Superstar - We love hiring and nurturing great professionals in their crafts. But we are ultimately a team sport, and are looking for those that are looking to be amazing team players. A self-described “Superstar” or “Ninja” that is looking for the status symbols of a superstar, is not likely to fit our team, even if they might be very good at their profession.
  • Passionate people. People who have a passion for something typically have that spark in their eyes when they engage in the work they love. They bring their best-self to work, possess the desire to improve and learn as well as focus on opportunities - not obstacles. Through your passion you can easily adjust the tone for the rest of the team and set an excellent example for everyone to follow.

*Inspired by Joel Spolsky’s book - Smart and Gets Things Done

tldr; Outbrainers are Smart, Get Things Done, Teamplayers.

Innovation

Outbrain pioneered the market we’re in, and it has always been important for us to be a market leader. Market leadership is not defined by a comScore or Nielsen number (though those are important metrics for us to track). Market leadership is defined as being an innovator, an independent thinker that keeps re-inventing the future of the market and the product. It’s paramount that we keep that culture of independent thinking.

As a market leader, we should follow our own unique drum beat or our own first principles. Anything we choose to build, should be built because we have a deep conviction that it’s the right thing to build based on our first principles.

The worst reason to prioritize our resources and efforts is “this is what the competitor is doing” or “because this is how the market is doing it.” Those are both terrible reasons. Although the market and competition could be right and it might fit within our worldview, they could very well be off track. The only way for us as Outbrainers to make decisions is through strong, independent conviction about our first principles, as described in our Lighthouse, and our own independent view.

tldr; Market leadership is about leading the innovation of the market to our own drumbeat.

Winnerism

“Business is the ultimate sport. It’s 7x24x365xforever.” ~~Mark Cuban

Like elite athletes, we are playing a professional sport that happens to be called ‘business’. A small difference: in an NBA/La Liga/Premier League,etc. game, the athletes know who they’re playing against, and when the game ends. In our pro sports we play against some teams we know, and many that we don’t. And as Mark Cuban said - there is no buzzer. The game is on 7x24x365xforever. If we’re not playing to win it, someone else is.

The biggest thrill in pro sports is to win. Serena Williams and Roger Federer aren’t ‘in it to attend it’... they’re in it to win it, day in and day out. They’re not busy making excuses why their opponents might have some advantages. They’re focused on winning.

Be Serena. Be Roger. It’s not much fun to play a professional sport, and not be playing it to win it. Our market is the playing field. When you enter the office in the morning, you’re walking out of the locker room, and you’re soon playing against the fiercest competitors in this sport, who are very eager to beat you. Step out of that locker room, and be ready to absolutely crush your competitors.

These are things winners like Serena and Roger do:

  • Set Goals. To be a winner, you first need to be goal-driven. If you don’t have a goal, what are you trying to achieve and how will you know when you’re winning? Winning can happen only when you have a clear target you want to achieve
  • Focus. Focus on your goals, and focus on your customers (whether internal or external). These are the keys to winning. As the saying goes: Winners focus on winning, losers focus on winners.
  • Learn from losses. We won’t win them all and that’s OK, as long as we fought hard and did our best to win each game. Michael Jordan once said “I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." A loss is usually the best learning opportunity that we’ll get*. When we lose, make sure we debrief and analyze on what could have been done differently so we can be better prepared for our next opportunity. And don‘t be shy to share what you’ve learned with your peers. They fail too.
  • Be a team player. We’re part of one company and one team. Be sure to use your teammates and other departments where needed, and they in turn will rely on you when needed.
  • Take Informed Risks. Don’t be afraid to take risks as long as you know how to manage them. Being conservative won’t bring you the big wins.
  • Own It. Take responsibility and ownership of outcomes. Be in control. Manage the process and the people who can support you. Don’t blame others, and don’t look for excuses**.
  • Be Humble. “Self-praise is for losers. Be a winner. Stand for something. Always have class, and be humble” — John Madden.

*As the saying goes: “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste!”

**For inspiration, watch a press conference of Serena or Roger after losing a match.

tldr; Be humble and kick ass!

Journalism in the 21st Century

We strongly believe that independent and sustainable journalism is a critically important pillar for society, especially these days where it is under attack both financially and politically in so many countries.

Outbrain has played an important role in the news publishing industry, and for over a decade has been a critical partner for some of the most important news organizations in keeping their operations viable and sustainable.

While we can’t fix all the problems that are plaguing news publishers ourselves, we view Outbrain as an important partner to this industry. We take that responsibility seriously. Whether it’s on issues like the financial viability of publishers in the long term, or fake news, or users’ perception of quality of advertising - our responsibility to the news publishing industry is long term, and it goes beyond what’s good just for Outbrain here and now.

There’s not always a right-vs-wrong, and the issues of balancing long-term-vs-short-term, trust-vs-financial-needs, etc. can be too complicated to resolve in a “scientifically correct” way. We will surely have missteps along the way. But as Outbrainers we view it as our responsibility to always be thoughtful in our decisions about the long-term viability of news publishing and journalism as an independent, sustainable industry in every country we operate in.

tldr; Free, independent and quality journalism is an important pillar for a free society. We need to help it live on and get discovered.

Cynicism... Not Cool!

Building great things is hard and being a cynic is very easy. Great things, whether companies or products or even countries have been built by people with great aspirations and little to no cynicism. At Outbrain we wish to invest our time in building great things with people that are looking to do the same with us. Being cynical about any of this is poisonous for those aspiring to build great things and is not welcome within our company.

A good example of this principle is this document you are reading. In writing this Culture Manifesto, we aimed to capture both the values & behaviors we feel reflect Outbrain’s culture today, but also set higher goals which we aspire to achieve in everything we do.

A cynical person might criticize this document and feel that there is no value, or even have disparaging comments about an unsavory recommendation that we may have accepted into our index.

On the other hand, an Outbrainer will take that unsavory recommendation as an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and together with their colleagues figure out ways to improve the product or process in order to make us all better at what we do. An Outbrainer will also provide constructive criticism that can help us learn, grow and improve.

Constructive criticism is highly encouraged, and should not be confused with cynicism!

Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, said it best:

If you are an overly cynical person, this outlook will not bode well for our organization nor the people who are dedicated to its mission. It doesn’t help us improve or set ourselves up for success. We are building great things here and need the right people to help drive these initiatives.

'It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.'

If you are an overly cynical person, this outlook will not bode well for our organization nor the people who are dedicated to its mission. It doesn’t help us improve or set ourselves up for success. We are building great things here and need the right people to help drive these initiatives.

tldr; If you are cynical about our company, your place is probably not here. Outbrainers are here to build great things.

A Few Final Words

This is not a final version of Outbrain’s culture, nor will there ever be one.

As we said in the beginning, this Culture Manifesto is a tool for us to codify and shape the culture and behaviors of the team -- both those that we have AND those we aspire to.

Reality changes around us and the company will always face new challenges and the need to adapt. As we continue to grow the company, this manifesto does not cover all future aspects of our culture and we don’t expect it to. This book will stay open-ended, with new additions and improvements over time. We encourage each and everyone of our Outbrainers to take an active role in proposing improvements and additions to this book.

We hope reading this manifesto was educational, interesting and inspiring for you. After all, it represents who we are as a team and the team that we aspire to be.

We’re incredibly proud to have you on this journey with us. Thank you for being a part of our team.

Ori & Yaron