Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg was in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to launch Playground, the social media giant’s new space for startups and businesses.
“This country is not just deeply meaningful to me, but also to Facebook,” Sandberg said at the event during a fireside chat with Facebook Israel general manager Adi Soffer Teeni. “Israel is a country of startups and entrepreneurs. There is one startup here for every 1500 people – the country with the highest percentage of startups [per capita] in the world,” Sandberg said.
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“I think Israel is important in so many ways… What’s happening with the startup community, with technical training, with great design of product is, I think, inspiring a lot of countries around the world,” she said.
Playground, which will be located within Facebook Israel’s headquarters on Rothschild Boulevard in the heart of Tel Aviv, is said to offer courses for startups and entrepreneurs and will also offer meeting rooms, spaces for workshops, production studios for videos, and more.
Sandberg said she expects Playground to reach 15,000 people per year.
Facebook also debuted a startup program through Playground, with plans to help boost consumer-focused startups. Thirteen startups have been selected in the initiative to be mentored by Facebook employees from the company’s R&D center in Tel Aviv, employees abroad, and industry experts. The program is comprised of four tracks: product management, marketing, management, and technology development.
Among the 13 Israeli startups are Modli, an online modest fashion marketplace; EquityBee, a company that helps startups acquire funds to exercise stock options; Lumen, a medical device that measures metabolism through one’s breath; Elemento, a WordPress page builder; Shookit, a marketplace for fresh produce; and Venn, the company that creates a neighborhood-wide network through homes and shared spaces for its first cohort.
“I’m so grateful to be here surrounded by inspiring entrepreneurs like the team behind Shookit,” Sandberg wrote later in a Facebook post. “At Facebook, we want to support a lot more businesses like Shookit. So we’re opening the Playground in Tel Aviv – a place where entrepreneurs, NGOs, and people who lead communities can come together and learn digital skills, share ideas, and build connections.”
Facebook first opened an office in Israel in 2013 and currently employs some 350 people. Facebook Israel has the second-largest Facebook engineering hub outside of the United States. Its engineering team is part of Facebook’s growth group, and responsible for products like Facebook Lite.
Sandberg is said to be in Israel for a family visit, but has also done a number of public events. On Monday, the Facebook COO met Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at his residence in Jerusalem where she presented him with a signed copy of her book Option B and some virtual reality goggles.
Sandberg also visited United Hatzalah of Israel, a non-profit organization, founded by Eli Beer Hatzalah, that sends volunteers as emergency responders across Israel for free. Sandberg also met three female volunteers from the program.
Globes reported that Sandberg will also hold a public meeting in Tel Aviv with the Israeli branch of Lean In, a global NGO that operates in 170 countries and deals with the advancement of women in the job marketplace. It was set up after her bestselling book of the same name about women’s empowerment.
Sandberg will also reportedly hold a closed-door meeting with Facebook Israel’s employees and sit down with media editors and community leaders.
Sandberg is considered one of the most powerful women in business. She moved from Google to Facebook in 2008. She is a former chief of staff for then-US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and has written two bestselling books.