Outbrain gets $35M investment — no IPO after all

Outbrain, a company that helps sites like CNN and the Guardian recommend stories to readers, announced a new $35 million investment on Tuesday, which will go to improving Outbrain’s algorithms and its worldwide expansion.

The funding announcement comes as something of a surprise in light of media reports in September stating Outbrain had hired its first CFO and planned to go public in 2014. The IPO reports came via numerous stories in the press in Israel, where Outbrain is based in part, and the company didn’t deny them at the time.

The company declined to comment on Tuesday on whether it had made a filing under new SEC rules which allow firms to file for an IPO confidentially if its revenues are under $1 billion year. The confidential process allows firms to test the waters with regulators and, if they wish, withdraw without media scrutiny.

In a Tuesday phone interview, CEO Yaron Galai said the company is focusing on expanding Outbrain’s tools for mobile devices where more and more people now consume news. He also reiterated the company’s commitment to making quality story recommendations and building trust with readers and publishers.

In the last year, a flood of competitors have followed Outbrain into the content recommendation business. The companies earn their money by including paid “stories” along with a publishers own content, and then taking a cut of the revenue.

“There’s ways to manufacture numbers and growth, some related to click-baiting. It doesn’t build a good relationship between users and publishers and brands,” said Galai.