After the success of more than 40 Facebook hubs around the globe, Sherly Sandberg launched the new “Playground” space in Tel Aviv on Tuesday 14th August. This new physical space aims to bring together a diverse range of people from startups, communities, entrepreneurs and businesses to Facebook Community Leaders and NGOs. It provides both facilities and programs to accelerate innovation and empower the next generation of startups at every stage of their journey. As Sheryl Sandberg stated, “We expect to reach 15 000 people per year with programs, trainings, office hours, and mentoring. We want the community to consider Playground as a second home where they can meet and learn.”
The space itself offers more than just co-working areas and a space to bring people together. There is also a live studio for video production, a podcast room, a device lab and workshop areas. Facebook also plans to run workshops, training and mentorship programs alongside activities for the Playground community. One such program includes the Startup Growth Program, which has already been popular in Israel. Focused on consumer-oriented startups, that have raised capital and are now looking to grow, the program offers hands-on workshops and 1:1 mentoring by Facebook teams over four professional tracks (CEO, CTO, VP of Product and VP of Marketing). The first cohort includes Bookaway, Shookit , Klever, Lumen and Modli. As Adi Soffer Teeni, country director for Facebook Israel highlights, the Startup Growth Program aims “to accelerate the leader of that domain within the startup leadership team, from someone who has some orientation in product and marketing, to a top-tier professional who can lead the domain from seed to growth stage.”.
Although the startup scene in Israel has historically been B2B oriented, Playground is focusing more on B2C. This focus plays on the strengths of Facebook’s expertise and supports the evolving scene in Israel, where more consumer-led products such as Wix are emerging. Facebook first opened an office in Israel in 2013 and has since grown to host over 300 employees. In addition to a marketing and sales office, Facebook Israel has the second-largest Facebook R&D center outside of the United States. The engineering team here is part of Facebook’s growth group, which is responsible for connecting the next billion users to the internet and for the company’s major growth engines.
Alongside the booming startup industry in Israel, with the highest density of startups in the world and with 100 million people globally connected to an Israeli business, Facebook also acknowledged an understanding of the political context. Sherly Sandberg emphasized Facebook’s commitment to invest in safety in the run-up to elections in Israel, minimizing potential harm. Facebook will work with third-party fact-checking organizations and aims to set new standards for ads transparency.
Other Facebook hubs and physical spaces are located around the world, including in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacifica and Latin America. In Europe, you can find LDN_LAB in the UK, a startup program that leverages the expertise of Facebook’s London-based employees with a 12-week full-time program. Participants are offered the chance to work out of the Rathbone Sq offices, attend practical workshops, and connect with experts and mentors. The program partners with Bethnal Green Ventures and focuses on companies using technology such as blockchain, AR/VR, and artificial intelligence to create social impact. In France, Facebook was one of the first to partner with Station F to invest in the space and set up a six-month acceleration program for startups. It works with data-driven startups to help them build products that are private and secure by design. Playground in Tel Aviv will add to this growing portfolio of innovative initiatives.