Facebook makes play for emerging markets with Onavo buy

Facebook has acquired Israeli mobile technology startup Onavo as part of its bid to grow its presence in emerging markets and create “more efficient” mobile products and advertising formats.


Onavo was founded three years ago and since then has created a number of mobile utility apps, which help consumers and companies lower the cost of their mobile browsing by using data compression technology.

Facebook revealed in July 819 million of its 1.15 billion monthly active users are visiting the site via mobile. Any attempt to lessen the dent Facebook’s app and mobile site has on consumers’ data allowance is likely to be welcomed by users – and also by advertisers, particularly given rumours it is about to launch a video advertising format in the coming months.

Onavo also provides a mobile intelligence service to advertisers and developers, with insights based on real-time engagement data. Facebook says the analytics tools will help the company provide “better, more efficient mobile products”.

The acquisition, reported to be worth between $150m and $200m, will play a central role in Facebook’s mission to connect more people to the internet in emerging markets – and increase its user base in those regions as a result – as part of the cross-company initiative Internet.org. Other brands involved in the alliance for affordable internet scheme include Google, Microsoft and Intel.

Once the transaction closes, Onavo will continue to run its Extend and Count mobile utility apps as standalone brands and says it “remains committed” to the privacy of its users. Onavo’s Tel Aviv headquarters will become Facebook’s first Israeli office and will run as a research and development centre.

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