Facebook holds huge developer forum in Tel Aviv, calls Israel ‘innovation hot spot’

Drawing 650 developers, forum comes one day after company's announcement of Israeli start-up acquisition.

Using Facebook on the Internet 370 (R) (photo credit: reuters)
Using Facebook on the Internet 370 (R)
(photo credit: reuters)
Global social-networking site Facebook hosted its largest developer event in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, a day after it announced it would open its first office in Israel and acquire a Tel Aviv start-up.
The event, which was also Facebook’s largest in the world outside the US, had been scheduled before Monday’s announcement that Facebook would acquire Onavo and open an office in Tel Aviv. However, the gathering also underscored the company’s more aggressive orientation toward Israel.
Indeed, while Tuesday’s conference was Facebook’s fifth in the country over the past year, it was by far the biggest, drawing 650 developers to a conference center at Hatachana compound.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen the news in the last 24 hours, but we made a little announcement yesterday,” joked Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, as she opened the conference.
“We actually see Israel as an absolute hot spot for innovation,” she said.
“You bring together the greatest creativity...
almost anywhere on the planet.”
Mendelsohn drew applause from the audience when she reiterated that Onavo’s office would stay based in Israel.
Keeping Onavo in the country was a significant shift for a US-based tech company, according to Jonathan Medved, a top technology venture capitalist here.
“These guys are all about the ‘campus,’” he said, explaining that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple traditionally placed a great deal of importance on having a central headquarters location.
“But [large tech companies have] all come to the realization that you can’t go forward without Israel, and you can’t continue to buy Israeli companies and ship them over to Silicon Valley,” he added.
Indeed, another Facebook executive, Julien Codorniou, said on Tuesday that “slowly but surely the company is moving” away from a campus-centric model, opening up offices around the world.
The comments by Facebook officials came during an event called “FbStart,” a daylong conference for tech developers in Israel. Flanked by signs proclaiming motivational slogans, such as “The Foolish Wait” and “Fail Harder,” tech developers and Facebook representatives discussed ways in which the Facebook platform could help start-up companies market their applications, particularly on mobile devices.
Participants cited several apps developed by Israeli companies, such as Get Taxi and Facetune, as examples of successful use of the Facebook platform.