Facebook Chief Operating Office Sheryl Sandberg


Facebook Chief Operating Office Sheryl Sandberg.
(photo credit: REUTERS)


Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg inaugurated the social media giant’s “Playground” in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday, establishing a new platform for the local start-up community.

Offering cutting-edge facilities for promising start-ups, including workshop spaces, meeting rooms and media production studios, Playground aims to serve as a bridge between Israeli start-ups and global customers, between traditional businesses and innovators, and between the hi-tech ecosystem and underrepresented groups.

“This country is not just deepingly meaningful for me, but also for Facebook,” said Sandberg, who briefly lived in Israel as a young child. “This is a country of start-ups and entrepreneurs. Our goal in this space at Playground is to help these start-ups become the leading tech companies.”

Thirteen entrepreneurs have already been selected to participate in Playground’s “Start-Up Growth Program” for consumer-oriented businesses. The start-ups have all raised capital and are considered to be showing strong signals for product market fit.

The new space, located on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, will also host events for the wider business community, led by both Facebook and representatives of the start-up ecosystem. Facebook is also working on a range of programs to share methodologies and best practices with audiences.

“We want to help people access economic opportunity and that starts with digital skills,” said Sandberg. “People are using technology across the world but afraid that technological change will leave them behind. Our role is to make everyone feel empowered to use technology.”

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The new Playground platform, Sandberg said, will aim to train 15,000 people in the coming year and help more businesses replicate the success of leading Israeli start-ups. She cited the accomplishments of Tel Aviv-based company Monday.com on multiple occasions, which was founded in 2012 and last month secured investment valuing the company at $1.9 billion.

“Every start-up wants to build a global company that breaks the local boundaries,” said Adi Soffer Teeni, general manager of Facebook Israel. “In Israel, a country of only 9 million people, scaling globally isn’t really a choice – it’s a must.”

Ahead of next month’s Knesset elections, Sandberg also took the opportunity to emphasize Facebook’s efforts to cut down fake news and ensure greater transparency of political advertising.

Under a mechanism first rolled out in Israel ahead of April’s elections, all political ads will feature a disclaimer with the name of the account that funded them. Non-Israelis will not be able to take out ads for or against Israeli candidates and those seeking to do so will have to confirm their identity with Facebook by providing government-issued ID.

“I believe deeply that technology can be a very powerful force for good. In order for the good to continue, we know we need to earn people’s trust and make sure people are safe on our platforms,” Sandberg said.

“We know and we’ve often learned the hard way that online security is a job that will never be finished because we’re up against very determined adversaries. While we’ll never stop the bad from happening, we’re determined to stay vigilant.”

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