Facebook swears by relevance and technology – two key drivers of innovation. Ime Archibong, Director of Product Partnerships at Facebook is playing intelligently with these two factors while scripting plans for India. He talks about FbStart, Facebook’s global programme to help early stage mobile startups build their apps and more in a conversation with Ritu Marya, Editor-in-Chief, Entrepreneur India.
“We are entering the third year at FBstart, which is pretty exciting. We have over 9000 members, high potential entrepreneurs, and start-ups who are part of this community. We have spread processes across 137 different countries. We are seeing the fastest growth in our developer eco-system from APAC. The entire APAC region is a growth area for us. The focus of my team tends to be on developers in the start-up eco-system.”
Facebook had its eyes on India for a long term, as the country is home to one of the fastest growing internet using population. India is also the second largest market after the US for FbStart program.
Talking about FbStart, Archibong says that mentorship is a crucial factor as FbStart enters its third year.
“We have heard from the community, time and time again - it is great when you people have programs; we love people talking to the product manager or the partnership people. How we do achieve that more consistently throughout the year through our participation in the program? We are looking at best robust online ways to scale that mentorship and do some great things there.”
“We are going to run a FbStart program in Bangalore soon. As we enter this third year, hundreds of developers and startups, as a part of the community will be talking about the program, like what are the new benefits and services, the different tracks they can apply to. We will simply give them an opportunity to learn about the way to engage people, face-to-face and that mentorship capacity that we think is so valuable to the eco-system.”
Choose Your Track
Throwing more light on FbStart, Archibong says that there are three tracks within the program. One is kind of a pre-launch track, so this is for someone who hasn’t built anything yet, but they have an idea that is conceptually really exciting. Second is kind of bootstrapped – which is they’ve gone, they have built something, a prototype maybe it is in one of the Apps stores, maybe it is not. Third is they have an app or a website that has been launched, they have already seen a little bit of traction and are trying to figure out how to take it to the next level.
“I talk about the tracks as opposed to SME vs developer vs start-up vs company, whatever you want to label someone as. Ultimately, given our platform tools, from the core Facebook App to messenger, all these different tools, you can be anyone who wants to leverage the Facebook platform, who wants to build something for mobile device and website and have the opportunity to participate in the program." Citing an example, he said how relevant content can increase an experience for a user.
“I was in Nigeria – just three weeks ago, I met Afrinolly (Afrinolly is an App that enables African entertainment enthusiasts to watch African movies, movie trailers, short films and music videos that have been made public by content owners or their legal representative most especially from the Nollywood film industry). It was very interesting to work with them because clearly they have content that is relevant for people in Nigeria.”
Focus On Regional Players
Stressing on collaborating with regional players, to make an integrated global platform, he also informed about the innovation used in Facebook Lite.
“Facebook Lite works very well with typical, older generation phones and also works very well across 2G networks. The explosive growth we have seen that has happened in India, Brazil, across the African continent – this is the fastest version of Facebook that we have ever built. We got some 100 million users in 9 months. We will work to ensure that our core App experience – is taking into account the different constraints that regions may offer.”
His Fav Chatbot Is Indian
Everyone in the tech world is talking about chatbots, more so about the way it can empower our future. It came to us a surprise when Archibong told us that his favorite bot was actually from India.
“It is the health industry that you don’t think about all the time. I think it is just that platforms need to be made, experiences will come. Out of many areas, bots would make a lot of sense in transportation. We have launched integration with Uber, with KLM on the airline side of the house.” For Facebook, user is the king and it is all about giving them a good experience.
This article first appeared in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (July 2016 Issue).