Incoming GitHub CEO pays secret visit to Israel

Nat Friedman Photo: PR

Nat Friedman, the next CEO of Microsoft's software developers' platform, met with leading Israeli venture capital funds.

Microsoft VP developer services Nathaniel Friedman, the next CEO of GitHub, secretly visited Israel last week, sources inform "Globes." GitHub is regarded as the world's leading software developers' platform. In June, Microsoft announced that it would acquire the company for $7.5 billion in shares.

"Globes" has learned that Microsoft assembled a group of partners and managers in some of Israel's leading venture capital funds for the meeting with Friedman. Amidst speculation about Microsoft's far-reaching plans for its new acquisition, the secret meeting could indicate that interest by the company in Israeli software tools for developers.

It is likely that the choice of a group of investment managers, rather than startup executives, indicates Microsoft's interest is focusing on the funds' portfolio companies. Microsoft itself declined comment on the meeting, which supports the assessment that the visit was not merely for the purpose of providing senior venture capital executives in Israel with a break from their routine.

A partner in one of the funds who attended the meeting told "Globes" that the effect was quite extraordinary and aroused great curiosity among those present. On the other hand, another partner who attended the meeting was less enthusiastic, saying that Microsoft had previously initiated similar meetings in order to introduce the funds to its senior executives and the activity of its various divisions. He believes that if Microsoft is cooking up an acquisition in Israel relating to GitHub, it will be done far from the eyes of these investment concerns.

Developers community in Israel especially lively

Microsoft has an R&D center in Israel with 1,100 employees - one of the company's strategic sites in addition to Silicon Valley and Boston. The center specializes in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and big data and is Microsoft's main site for these fields. Early this year, Microsoft appointed Assaf Rappaport, 34, to head the center, an announcement that attracted great interest and expectations about the company's development in Israel.

The Israeli developers' community is one of the most vigorous in high tech, a fact that probably contributed to Friedman's decision to make the visit and possibly to look for cooperative and other ventures. Friedman himself is a veteran initiator of open code. In 2000, he founded a startup in this area named Xamarin, which makes it possible to generate open code using Microsoft's systems. Microsoft acquired Xamarin in 2016. When the GitHub deal is completed, he will replace Chris Wanstrath, the platform's founder, as CEO.

The integration of Xamarin and GitHub in Microsoft highlights the changes undergone by the latter since it put all of its weight behind the fight against open code. Current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella put a number of the company's products into open code and promoted cooperative ventures with developers of rival operating systems Linux. This appears to be a resounding success; during the fiscal year that ended in June, Microsoft's revenue reached $110 billion.

Despite the change in attitude, the GitHub deal aroused concern among developers, a few of whom even switched to competing platforms. They believe that Microsoft is liable to restrict the open code, spy on innovative ideas, or pressure developers to switch to Microsoft's proprietary systems.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 3, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

Nat Friedman Photo: PR
Nat Friedman Photo: PR
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