Former “Grandmother’s Pick” Winners Onavo Acquired by Facebook for $150 Million

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Sunday’s news that Tel Aviv-based app analytics startup Onavo had been acquired by Facebook for $150 million wasn’t a surprise to Phil Telio.

Telio created Montreal’s annual summertime startup bash, the International Startup Festival, and invited Onavo to the first event in 2011. There the startup was awarded the “Grandmother’s Pick,” and came in third place for the “Judges Pick”. The grandmother’s panel is a popular panel of, well, grandmothers. They give their award to whatever startup they like the best.

In a recent Facebook comment, Telio said he’s “been saying to VC’s for three years that they should invite our Grandmother’s panel to critique their portfolio companies. Maybe now they’ll consider it.”

Whether he was serious or not, the “Grandmothers” have proven to be a total hit at the Startup Fest. They’re not stuck in the startup silo and they come into the festival with clear minds, able to single out the companies that provide immediate solutions for real problems. 2013′s festival saw the Grandmothers select Snoobe Mobile, which helps wireless consumers save on their monthly bills, and TrinityHammocks, which turns hammocking into a sharing and social experience.

With the new acquisition, Onavo will serve as Facebook’s entry into Israel, and its new Tel Aviv-based office. It was only a matter of time before the social media giant would make its presence known in a real way in Israel.

Founded in 2010, cofounders Guy Rosen and Roi Tiger developed the award-winning Onavo mobile utility apps. The company offers Onavo Insights, the first mobile market intelligence service based on real engagement data. It’s for mobile app publishers to see how well their apps are doing. The other side of their business is a consumer play, an app that helps people optimize performance and battery life on iOS and Android. Essentially the company allows smartphone users to know how well their phones are doing.

The company currently has its main operations in Palo Alto, California. By January 2012 it had raised $13 million in venture funding from Sequoia, Horizons Ventures, Motorola and Magma Venture Partners.

Telio said that the Grandmother’s Pick awards don’t come with anything but bragging rights, but Onavo proudly displayed the fact that it won the award while fundraising. Telio said that when he asked the Grandmother judges why they selected Onavo in 2011, they told him they “knew (Rosen) was going to be successful one day”.

“Its phenomenal,” Telio told BetaKit. “It’s not every day that a company exits for that amount of money.” He said Onavo initially was pleasantly surprised that the grandmothers could understand the value in that a growing number of mobile users wanted to understand their data.

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Evidently the grandmothers foreshadowed success. Facebook is looking towards an increased mobile presence as well as a stronger foothold in emerging markets like Israel (though some might call Tel Aviv “firmly emerged”).

Techcrunch’s Ingrid Lunden suggested that “more practically, Onavo will also give [Facebook] a much deeper technology bench to measure how those mobile services are working — who is using them, as well as how to make them work in the most optimized way on mobile devices. This can be applied in a number of areas both for basic user experience and commercial ends.”

Onavo released a statement about the massive acquisition on Monday. Here it is:

“We are excited to announce that Facebook has agreed to acquire our company.

Three years ago, we started Onavo with the goal of helping today’s technology consumers and companies work more efficiently in a mobile world. We developed the award-winning Onavo mobile utility apps, and later launched Onavo Insights, the first mobile market intelligence service based on real engagement data. Our service helps people save money through more efficient use of data, and also helps developers, large and small, design better experiences for people.

We’ve built world-class products and a remarkably talented team which has pioneered important breakthroughs in data compression technology and mobile analytics. Today, we’re eager to take the next step and make an even bigger impact by supporting Facebook’s mission to connect the world.

As you know, Facebook and other mobile technology leaders recently launched Internet.org, formalizing Facebook’s commitment to improving access to the internet for the next 5 billion people — this is a challenge we’re also passionate about.

We’re excited to join their team, and hope to play a critical role in reaching one of Internet.org’s most significant goals – using data more efficiently, so that more people around the world can connect and share. When the transaction closes, we plan to continue running the Onavo mobile utility apps as a standalone brand. As always, we remain committed to the privacy of people who use our application and that commitment will not change.

We are incredibly proud of the talented team we have assembled, and, recognizing this, Onavo’s Tel-Aviv office will remain open for business and will become Facebook’s new Israeli office.

We’ll continue to advance the work we are doing in collaboration with Facebook’s great team. Thank you to everyone who has joined us on this journey. We’d like to extend a special thanks to our investors, who believed in us and in our vision from the early days. We’re excited for what’s next.”

Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk is Managing Editor at Betakit. Prior to Betakit Joseph wrote for the National Post, Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun, Regina Leader Post, Techvibes and BC Business Online. Joseph often goes crazy on twitter during NHL and NFL games.