Tel Aviv, meet Facebook. Facebook, Tel Aviv.
Well, not exactly Tel Aviv. Israeli tech startup Onavo announced today that it had been acquired by Facebook — for a reported $150 million to $200 million — and that "Onavo’s Tel-Aviv office will remain open for business and will become Facebook’s new Israeli office." And according to a FourSquare check-in by one of Onavo's co-founders, its office is located on Derech Aba Hillel Street in Ramat Gan, a somewhat nicer and sleepier satellite city just inland from Tel Aviv. Formerly a farming community that grew wheat, barley and watermelons, Ramat Gan is now home to Israel's diamond exchange and a significant slice of the country's booming tech industry.
Onavo develops mobile apps that let smartphone and tablet users track and reduce the amount of Internet data they use each month, thus helping lower their data charges.
The Google Maps screenshot below appears to show the Onavo building in Ramat Gan. [Update: A previous version of this post identified a nearby building on Habonim Street as the location of the Onavo offices, but the startup apparently moved to this much snazzier high-rise last year.]
"I can confirm for you that Onavo will remain in their offices in Tel Aviv and the offices will become Facebook's offices in Israel," said a Facebook spokesperson over email. "These are Facebook's first offices in Israel."
Onavo co-founders Guy Rosen and Roi Tiger threw up a celebratory post to their official blog today, indicating that Onavo's integration into Facebook has everything to do with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's new initiative to make the Internet (and therefore Facebook) more accessible to less privileged areas of the world. Their joint statement:
We are excited to announce that Facebook has agreed to acquire our company.
Three years ago, we started Onavo with the goal of helping today’s technology consumers and companies work more efficiently in a mobile world. We developed the award-winning Onavo mobile utility apps, and later launched Onavo Insights, the first mobile market intelligence service based on real engagement data. Our service helps people save money through more efficient use of data, and also helps developers, large and small, design better experiences for people.
We’ve built world-class products and a remarkably talented team which has pioneered important breakthroughs in data compression technology and mobile analytics. Today, we’re eager to take the next step and make an even bigger impact by supporting Facebook’s mission to connect the world.
As you know, Facebook and other mobile technology leaders recently launched Internet.org, formalizing Facebook’s commitment to improving access to the internet for the next 5 billion people — this is a challenge we’re also passionate about.
We’re excited to join their team, and hope to play a critical role in reaching one of Internet.org’s most significant goals – using data more efficiently, so that more people around the world can connect and share. When the transaction closes, we plan to continue running the Onavo mobile utility apps as a standalone brand. As always, we remain committed to the privacy of people who use our application and that commitment will not change.
We are incredibly proud of the talented team we have assembled, and, recognizing this, Onavo’s Tel-Aviv office will remain open for business and will become Facebook’s new Israeli office.
We’ll continue to advance the work we are doing in collaboration with Facebook’s great team. Thank you to everyone who has joined us on this journey. We’d like to extend a special thanks to our investors, who believed in us and in our vision from the early days. We’re excited for what’s next.
Facebook apparently couldn't stand to be out-Israeled by Google, who acquired social-media traffic app Waze, based in the Ra'anana tech suburb above Tel Aviv, just a few months back. With Onavo, Facebook has finally claimed its own slice of the Startup Nation. And it took them long enough: Even Apple, whose products are generally shunned by tech-savvy Israelis and whose obsession with form-over-function kind of goes against everything Israeli techies stand for, opened its third research and development (R&D) center in Ra'anana earlier this year.
Facebook previously acquired two Israeli startups — Snaptu and Face.com — but, despite hopeful predictions that the social-media giant would open an R&D center in Israel through one of these companies, Facebook instead just hauled them stateside. Makes you wonder: Could losing the war for Waze to Google have taught Zuckerberg and Co. a lesson about separating Israeli brainchildren from the motherland?
According to Ha'aretz, 30 out of Onavo's 40 employees currently sit in its Israel office. (The rest work in Palo Alto.) I've contacted Facebook to find out if the Onavo office in Ramat Gan will be growing at all, in light of this long-overdue union.
[Update, October 17: Facebook never got back to me on that, but the company did hold a massive developer forum in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, where Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, announced: "We actually see Israel as an absolute hot spot for innovation. You bring together the greatest creativity... almost anywhere on the planet.” So, outlook good. And on a more serious note, I can't believe I forgot to embed Israeli President Shimon Peres' impossibly adorable dubstep video from spring 2012 about joining Facebook, entitled "Be My Friend for Peace." More of this, please, Mr. President.]