I interviewed him for 40 minutes at his Beverly Hills mansion this afternoon. Video
He won $25,000 from MGM and YouTube for making this PSA promoting tolerance. He then donated the money to the Museum of Tolerance.
You can see all of Eytan’s YouTube videos here.
His dad was a principal of a community Jewish day school in San Antonio. His brother is a black-hatter in Jerusalem.
Eytan and I compared beards. Mine springs from righteousness while his grows from convenience.
Luke: "Eytan, when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
Eytan: "Great question. Same thing most kids think about — doctor, lawyer, go run some real estate. Eventually I got into computers and decided to do some sort of tech business."
"My brother got an Apple2E when he was 13. That made me nine years old."
It was 1982. "I started out making programs for video games."
Elbaz sent his first email in 1993.
Luke: "Were you immediately hooked on the online experience?"
Eytan: "No. I think I sent an email and used mosaic to cruise the web and I put it down for a year or two. My older brother told me all the good domain names were being taken, that drew me back to checking them out. I didn’t register any."
Growing up in Texas, Eytan was the captain of the computer science team in high school. "I was one of the debate kids, always doing debate. But I was also in a lot of the academic clubs. Every now and then I’d hang out with the cool kids too."
Elbaz graduated from UCLA with a degree in Computer Science in 1995.
In 1999, "my older brother and his friend and a cousin came up with this idea for Oingo, a meaning-based search engine. We came up with this idea for making search engines better so you’d search based on meaning rather than text. We went down that path for a year when it occurred to us that people didn’t want to search like this, they wanted to search on Google.
"We decided to shift gears and focus more on internet ads and contextualize target using the same technology."
Luke: "Were there contextually targeted ad systems then?"
Eytan: "There really weren’t. We were ahead of the game. We came out with this product called AdSense in 2000 that didn’t get used by anyone for two years. We built the technology up. It made a lot of sense."
Never publicly traded, Oingo was funded by venture capital until Google bought it in April of 2003.
Eytan: "We worked out of this house in the Hollywood Hills until the city kicked us out. We had 21 people working out of the house. We had eight people living there. We rented the house for five months until we got evicted and had to find office space."
Luke: "What was your role in this start-up?"
Eytan: "I wrote the initial business plan and raised the initial money, wrote a lot of the marketing literature and did the business development. Gil and Adam formed the core technology, programming, back-ends, database architecture, managing a team of 12 linguists, a couple of them had PhDs. We hired a poet, an undergrad in linguistics, a law student, we were taking people interested in words and building up a company…"
"We were just trying to come up with products we could sell. Our first product was DomainSense. If the domain you wanted wasn’t available, this tool would give you alternative domain names. I came up with the idea."
"We came up with this product called DomainPark which would monetize parked domain pages. That’s still around. That took off in 2000 and by 2002 it was helping us pay our bills. We were breaking even by the end of 2002."
"We kinda knew we had something [with AdSense] when we won this USA Today.com deal."
Luke: "Were you guys written about?"
Eytan: "We started getting some big headlines four days after our launch in 1999. We got this big MSNBC article and a Time digital article within a week of launching. I think it went to our heads. We really thought we were on to something because we had all these guys writing about you. Ultimately, the idea of meaning-based search was fascinating to the people writing about it but ultimately nobody wanted to use it.
"You’re stuck with this cool idea, this Internet World ‘Best of Show’ award and all these accolades, but you find out after a few months that there’s no real traffic to the site, you have to come up with something else.
"We didn’t figure out what we did until the press had long left us."
"I’ve always wanted to make films. I’ve been making home movies since I was in high school. I wanted to go to film school but I got talked into being an engineer…but I always promised myself that if I ever got the opportunity to work on some films, I would do that."
"YouTube was sponsoring a contest to make a video for what you believe and tolerance had long been an important concept to me, one I felt passionately about, so I wrote up this script and invited these children in and we put together this great video that speaks to my ideas about how tolerance is something that really needs to be taught."
Here’s a press release:
Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) November 15, 2007 — Eytan Elbaz, a successful technology entrepreneur and the Director of Shake State Productions, proudly announces his Grand Prize winning entry in the YouTube Lions for Lambs: "What Do You Stand For?" Contest, which includes a $25,000 donation to a non-profit institution of his choice. This video, entitled "Dear Parents," is a stirring collection of statements from children to parents, reminding adults about the power of tolerance and the evils of prejudice. Eytan plans to select the Simon Wiesenthal Center ( www.wiesenthal.com) as the recipient of the video’s cash prize, with proceeds to be allocated among the organization’s various affiliates.
"It is a true honor to enjoy this recognition from YouTube and Metro-Goldwyn Studios Inc. (MGM), a lead sponsor of this contest and the distributor of the critically acclaimed ‘Lions for Lambs’ motion picture, itself a powerful reminder about the importance of thoughtfulness and individual citizenship during a time of international crisis. I hope ‘Dear Parents’ will have a similar impact on public discussion as it concerns religious and racial tolerance," said Eytan Elbaz, Director of Shake State Productions. "The campaign for tolerance must renew itself with each generation, lest we succumb to fear, hatred and the worst forms of bigotry and discrimination My video is a wakeup call from children to parents, a plea for justice and personal liberty during a heightened period of tension both domestically and internationally."
A Commitment to Independent Filmmaking
Eytan’s career in film is a new and equally exciting complement to his distinguished reputation in technology, which includes his work at Advanced Micro Devices and Telos Corporation. He has produced four short films since 2006, which have been accepted to a combined thirty film festivals. "My films incorporate the best of new media with entertaining storylines and inventive writing without excessive costs or expensive promotion. YouTube is a tremendously effective medium for my work, as it enables people to instantly comment about various shorts and publicize my ideas to the broadest audience possible. I encourage people to send me their thoughts about my content," stated Elbaz.