Facebook’s R&D center in Ramat Gan is working to connect more people to the Internet worldwide.
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Facebook’s Israel development center is currently recruiting new workers to work at Onavo, which Facebook acquired for $150 million in October 2013. Facebook Israel development center CEO and Onavo co-founder Roi Tiger said, “There was fantastic chemistry between us and Facebook during the negotiations.” Tiger held a press conference today to promote the company’s operations in Israel, and to appeal to talented developers.
“We plan to hire 20 more workers by the end of the year, ” says Tiger. Today, there are 35 employees at the company, which is located in the Diamond Exchange District in Ramat Gan. “We are looking for people with network experience, analysts, and data scientists. We are looking for the best people in the market. This is why we established this center. It is not a simple task. This is a company with very special DNA – a start-up that wants to make a difference in the world.”
“Eight months ago, we began building the Israel office, which is the second Facebook office outside of the US, ” says Tiger. “We are busy with a project called internet.org, the goal of which is to connect people to the Internet. Two thirds of the world is not connected to the Internet. It is pretty absurd – that such a large portion of the world isn’t there.” Tiger explains that when one begins investigating the matter in depth, it becomes clear that 80% of people within range of cellular networks are not connected to the Internet. “The reason for this is that the connection is too expensive, ” he explains. “These are countries where people’s salaries are low. Another reason is that people don’t know what the Internet is, or what it is good for at all.
“Our goal is to remove the entry barrier to Internet access for people, so they will be able to discover what the Internet is, and to offer it to them for free. The idea is to give people a taste of the Internet. We have a pilot in three countries: The Philippines, Tanzania, and Paraguay, ” says Tiger. “We have connected millions of people to the Internet who weren’t there before. We are examining models for creating profit. For the coming years, Facebook is not looking at it as a profit center.”
Facebook’s main project is providing basic services for free. Health services, communications, education. The goal is to remove the barrier, and to reveal the Internet to people. “We are working with mobile operators to enable and remove the entry barriers. The idea is that the operators can generate revenue from people who are online. Facebook offers people free connection to Facebook services. This is a project that can change the world. To be able to say that we took a part in this mission would be an incredible thing, on a national level.”
The data-compression app Extend and the security app Protect are no longer at the forefront for Onavo, despite the fact that they are what caused Facebook to become interested in the company. According to Tiger, the company’s developers are constantly busy with improving the app, and just recently implemented a design upgrade. “Facebook helps us, with its distribution.” The company’s app, which helps users save on their Internet data packages, already exists for iOS and Android. For the time being at least, Tiger says there are no plans to launch a Windows Phone version. It should be noted that Microsoft offers its own solution, Data Sense, on its smartphones.
Tiger also spoke of his work at Facebook and his adjustment there. “When you join Facebook, you enter a sort of a ‘boot camp’ for a few weeks. Within a week, your code is already running on Facebook’s site. At the end of this boot camp, teams come to you and try to convince you to join them. The company operates quickly, and is focused on the effect you have.”
“Establishing a development center for a start-up creates interesting options. It is to preserve a dynamic organizational culture. It is a great advantage that Facebook chose to establish a development center based on an existing start-up. We will connect to the Israeli start-up ecosystem – Facebook Israel is based on an Israeli start-up. We are always in contact with start-up companies of various sizes, and we are always looking for interesting opportunities in the Israeli market.”
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes-online.com – on July 7, 2014