Conduit (publisher network and platform)
|Headquarters||New York City, United States; Ness Ziona, Israel|
Conduit is a browser hijack and an online platform that allows web publishers to create custom toolbars, web apps, and mobile apps at no cost. Conduit has approximately 260,000 registered publishers who have collectively created content downloaded by more than 250 million end users. Web apps and pieces of content developed through Conduit's platform can be distributed and exchanged online via the Conduit App Marketplace. Currently, 60 million users consume apps from the marketplace on a daily basis.
Conduit's toolbars have been described in online forums and news outlets as a malware and are difficult to remove. The company began to shift away from this part of its business in late 2013 when it spun off its toolbar division into Perion Network through a reverse merger.
Conduit is based in Ness Ziona, Israel with offices in New York City. Currently, the company has over 400 employees. It was initially backed by $9.5 million from Benchmark Capital and Yozma Group, and is the second largest technology company in Israel with a valuation of approximately $1.4 billion. Other valuations have placed the company value as high as $2.5 billion. Conduit is the largest Internet company in Israel, with more than 260 million users. The founders have stated that they plan on keeping the headquarters in Israel as the company grows. It was named #24 on the Business Insider 2012 Digital 100.
Conduit was founded in 2005 by Ronen Shilo, Dror Erez, and Gaby Bilcyzk. Shilo, who founded the company with his own money, is now the CEO of Conduit. In 2010 Conduit then-president Adam Boyden was featured in Forbes Magazine online, in which he discussed the link between successful social gaming and marketing principles. In 2010 there were more than 100 million toolbars being powered by Conduit that were used at least once a month, which put Conduit at #29 on Google’s list of top 1,000 sites on the Internet that year. In May 2011, Conduit completed the $45 million acquisition of Israeli startup Wibiya, an engagement platform that enables publishers to integrate a variety of web applications on their site via the Wibiya Bar product. In April 2012, J.P. Morgan purchased a $100 million 7% stake in Conduit from Yozma.
The resulting valuation of $1.3 billion saw Conduit become the first Israel-based billion dollar Internet company, and was highlighted by the Wall Street Journal as a part of the 2012 entries into the "$1 Billion Start-Up Club". The company uses a co-sale concept to provide dividends to employees as well as investors over time. In September 2013 Conduit spun off its Client Connect business division, which then combined with Perion Network in a reverse merger. After the deal, Conduit shareholders owned 81% of Perion's existing shares.
During this time Conduit moved away from the toolbar part of its business in order to focus on its mobile and browser engagement offerings. Ingrid Lunden of TechCrunch wrote that by spinning off the Client Connect business, the "split divided the company in two, with one part focusing on its mobile and engagement business and run by Shilo, and the other, Client Connect, merging with Perion". Lunden said further that, "Less than a month after browser-toolbar and mobile startup Conduit merged its Client Connect division with Perion, the company is making another change to its business. Conduit has announced that it will be discontinuing Wibiya, the social browser toolbar service that it acquired in 2011 for $45 million, as it shifts further away from its toolbar business." In late 2013 Conduit was valued at $1.5 billion.
Until 2013, one of Conduit's main businesses revolved around downloadable toolbars. Conduit allowed publishers to create and distribute their own toolbars for web browsers. Typically the toolbars were installed with another software product on which the toolbar is a piggyback program, with users given the option to not install the toolbar. Browsers that initially supported the toolbars included Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. Google Chrome was added as a supported browser in 2011.
Examples of toolbars have included a Zynga-designed toolbar that helps Farmville enthusiasts keep up-to-date with the status of their game, another is a toolbar from eBay that provides auction updates. The content is customized to the individual toolbar rather than generalized for all users. The toolbar can also be used for general information distribution as well, which has been used by companies to engage in marketing campaigns. Other companies that have developed Conduit toolbars include Major League Baseball, Greenpeace, and Lufthansa. Some of the companies and brands that have used Conduit's platform are Major League Baseball, Time Warner Cable, Fox News, Zynga, Chelsea Football Club, Groupon, Travelocity, µTorrent, and The Weather Channel. The toolbars have been described in online forums and news outlets as a browser hijack and are difficult to remove.
Although Conduit’s focus was initially on connecting publishers with end users via the browser, the company has since introduced a cross-platform mobile development kit that allows users to create native and web mobile applications for all major smartphone platforms and iPad in February 2011. As of December 2011, Conduit Mobile has added several new features to the product that are targeted towards musicians, including SoundCloud integration. At first Conduit's partners provide their apps and use of the app-creation platform to users for free, but requires a percentage of the advertising revenue generated from apps created with its software. The company now provides its platform with a paid subscription model. These apps and specialty toolbars include player-branded products, featuring particular players from leagues including the NFL, Warner Brothers, and major league soccer in Europe. Conduit has also developed the service QuickLaunch, which allows companies to design custom lock-screens for mobile devices. The screen allows users to customize their device’s lock screen, providing one-click access to calls, content, or featured websites.
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