Kara Swisher

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Yahoo Creative Innovation Center Head — And Key Ad Tech Exec — Eran Shir Leaves Company for Israel’s Aleph

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Well-known Israeli entrepreneur Eran Shir, whose Dapper startup was bought by Yahoo in 2010, is leaving the company to join new venture firm Aleph as an entrepreneur in residence.

Shir has been a key ad tech exec at Yahoo since the Dapper acquisition, including working on its most recent efforts in transforming its ad tech by focusing on dynamic, personalized and native ad products.

As he noted on his LinkedIn profile: “After joining Yahoo! in late 2010, I was commissioned with the task of building a new engineering team inside Yahoo! called the Creative Innovation Center (CIC). The CIC is a global team based in part on Dapper’s engineering team, that works on the technologies for the next generation of creatives across mobile, video, dynamic and rich media ads.”

In other words, the heart of Yahoo’s recent efforts in ad tech, which has been moving in that direction aggressively under new CEO Marissa Mayer, especially as the premium display-ad business has waned.

As I noted in a post about Yahoo’s focus on what it calls “Stream Ads”:

The sponsored and targeted content is akin to what you might experience in Facebook’s News Feed, which has always looked this way.

The move to embrace this native ad format — which Yahoo claims “matches the content and context of the pages” and works across all devices, especially mobile ones — is CEO Marissa Mayer’s big gamble on turning around what has become a very dicey situation for the Silicon Valley Internet company’s ever-declining advertising business.

Its initial code name at the company: Moneyball.

“This is her big play on the ad side,” said one person familiar with the efforts with in-stream ads at Yahoo. “Everything else is just a sideshow to her.”

Shir is part of the large group of engineers and tech leaders now deployed across Yahoo who have been working on the redo of its ad efforts. To do so, he has been shuttling back and forth between the Silicon Valley Internet giant’s HQ in Sunnyvale, Calif., and its offices in Israel, where he is also an active angel investor.

He will get a larger landscape at Aleph, a new early-stage fund co-founded by former Benchmark VC Michael Eisenberg, that was formed this summer with $140 million to shower on Israeli startups.

“We are giving Eran a blank and broad canvas to do what he wants at Aleph, and we are confident that his creativity and mentoring will be a huge asset for Aleph and all entrepreneurs,” Eisenberg told AllThingsD.

In an interview with me, the wickedly smart Shir told me, “I’ll do all of the traditional stuff, but also several things that I hope will be different, all toward the goal of helping entrepreneurs and the Israeli tech ecosystem.”

That includes deploying Aleph’s large research and development budget, said Shir. “I am planning to build several products with the aim of catering to the needs of entrepreneurs,” he said.

He has already had one hit with Dapper, the ad-creation and optimization startup in the fields of semantic Web and digital marketing. It was founded by Shir and Jon Aizen in 2006.

These days, Shir said, he’s more interested in the “Internet of Things” meme, noting that there are some exciting developments in the area of merging hardware and software that “Israel is at the forefront of.”

Also, he added: “I have always wanted to try the VC life, and I am not really a corporate guy.”

No longer, it seems.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus