Facebook conference: No better time to be David vs the Goliaths
MANILA, Philippines – Technology is on the side of the underdog.
People often think of disruption when it comes to technology. There's no denying that it has become its calling card on the global economic stage.
Exhibit A for this is Facebook. Started out of a dorm room more than a decade ago, the social media platform has gone on to become the cornerstone for most online lives.
Along the way it has also helped foment political revolutions and has evolved into becoming an essential springboard for small entrepreneurs the world over.
To constantly move this further, Facebook regularly hosts a developers' meetup called the F8 conference.
This year's edition showed a slew of new development tools, including chat bots, live APIs, and even wifi spreading hot air balloons, in the hope that it will make the platform even more indispensable. (READ: Did Mark Zuckerberg just take a swipe at Donald Trump?)
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed the audience in California as well as viewing parties tuning in worldwide, telling everyone why the work that is being done at Facebook today is more important that is has ever been: "We stand for connecting every person; for a global community, for bringing people together, for giving all people a voice."
From "the father in the US who wants a cleaner planet for his children" to "that young boy in Syria who is doing the best he can with the cards he's been dealt to find a good path forward in the world." The goal, Zuckerberg said, is to "give everyone the power to share anything with anyone." Noting that around 4 billion people aren't on the Internet, the 31-year-old said, "we need to change this."
From its corner of the world, Rappler hosted on Wednesday, April 13, its own event for developers and startups to brainstorm on how to best leverage these tools to change the status quo. (READ: Rappler, Kickstart, Facebook host F8 Meetup Manila)
Aside from the viewing of F8's highlights and keynote speeches, the F8 Manila Meetup co-hosted by Facebook and Kickstart Ventures, featured talks from representatives of Rappler, Kickstart Ventures, and its portfolio companies InnoVantage and Kalibrr.
David vs Goliaths
In her opening speech, Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa encouraged those in the event to not be afraid to try and "learn something new."
This line of thinking is essential because technology today gives people the opportunity to challenge the norm. "If you see something differently, use the power of technology to grow," Ressa said.
She stressed: "There is no better time to be David fighting against the Goliaths."
Here are lessons from some of the Davids to help others along in that fight:
A lot of developers and entrepreneurs in the tech industry are always on the lookout for ways to outmaneuver competition and build the best tech solutions with the best features. While there's nothing really wrong with it, said co-founder and CEO Gian Paulo de la Rama, developers ought to focus more on their clients' needs.
"[When programming] focus more on the people rather than the features," said De La Rama in his speech.
InnoVantage, a software startup that builds cloud solutions for enterprises, started with 3 people and an initial paid-up capital of P32,000.
Their big break came when a large multinational company asked them to build software that would allow it to work faster. They agreed to build the app, but offered a big discount if they were allowed to resell it to other companies. This is how InnoVantage's flagship product, Cogito, was born.
According to De La Rama, they recognize that their solutions are imperfect. But instead of continuously trying to perfect their products one glitch at a time, they look at what their client needs and start making improvements on their products that are relevant to the client.
"It's not just about your product…It's about the people – those using it, implementing it and will be improved by it," he added. "We don't really care if the product is the best or not, for as long as it can solve the problem of our client."
Always be shipping
"Always be shipping," said Kalibrr product manager Joan Magno.
According to Magno, "shipping" means moving forward, building, and creating. "Whatever you’re doing, you should always be improving your product or trying new things," she added.
Kalibrr, a job matching platform that connects job hunters to companies, has grown from a newcomer to a known jobs portal. Their secret is the 80-20 formula. 80% of Kalibrr’s shipping effort goes to improving those that generate revenue. This includes improving their product based on what matters to the client, and improving the way their product is marketed.
Magno added that knowing and copying competitors won’t take a company from zero to one. "Know your competition, but don't just copy them," said Magno.
Kalibrr saves 20% of their efforts innovating and doing things competitors aren’t.
The firm launched new features on their product, including one that allows their users to connect with companies using SMS and a Twitter bot that tweets job vacancies to job hunters who use the hashtag #KalibrrFindMeAJob.
Just recently, Kalibrr also partnered with Rappler and built a jobs portal inside the Rappler site.
Social media: Voice in the darkness
Innovations can also be applied beyond profit models to benefit society, especially social media, as demonstrated by Rupert Ambil, executive director of Rappler's citizen engagement arm, Move.PH.
For Ambil, who is former head of field operations for ABS-CBN News, the proof came in 2013 during Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
Having sent out a status message on Facebook saying that he was flying out to Tacloban after the typhoon hit ground zero, he was besieged by requests from strangers asking for help contacting their families.
Tacloban was totally cut off communications-wise with no working telephone lines or electricity.
While in the city, he was struck by constant requests from people to publish the footage he was showing unedited. This was so that relatives could scour them frame by frame looking for their relatives.
For a week after the typhoon struck, the only communication link was through social media. The government set up a social media tent and gave each resident 3 minutes to contact their relatives to say they were safe.
Coming off from Tropical Storm Sendong, and put immediately to use during Typhoon Yolanda, Move.PH developed Agos, a social media platform that aggregates real-time information by citizens through social media to provide government with actionable intelligence on the ground.
During typhoons, Move.PH now sits at the government center of operations providing citizen-powered information on the ground.
"As a news and information organization, it's our way of giving back and giving back beyond the stories that we produce," Ambil said.
Leveling up your game
Minette Navarrete, CEO of Kickstart Ventures and the former managing director of local game publisher Level Up! Games, inspired the audience in her gaming-themed speech.
Her first tip for startups? Explore the whole map.
According to Navarrete, developers and entrepreneurs must first see the value of the product and how the game is played before they start building it.
The next move is building a great avatar – defining a brand with the attributes it should carry and the attributes that need to be rejected.
"You can't do everything by yourself, so you have to party up and choose your team wisely," says Navarrete.
According to her, it is important to be able to balance team capabilities. This means finding a group of diverse people who are able to compensate for each other's weaknesses. From there, one should play to their strengths and find battles where their weaknesses are irrelevant.
"Change the game, find the rules that make your weaknesses irrelevant or find team members who make these weaknesses non-issues," said Navarrete.
Navarrete advises entrepreneurs to fight one quest at a time.
"Commit to a plan of action, commit to your priorities and pursue with vigor. If it doesn't work, then pivot and commit to that again," said Navarrete. This, according to her, would help make entrepreneurs make the most out of their time and resources.
Kickstart Ventures, a Globe subsidiary, is a venture capital firm that funds early-stage digital startups, providing capital, incubation and mentoring, and market access. – with reports from Chris Schnabel and the Rappler Social Media Team/Rappler.com