Facebook chief restates commitment assisting tech start-ups

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of popular social media platform, Facebook, yesterday in Lagos restated his commitment to assist tech start-ups in the country, adding that the future lies on the development of entrepreneurs and software developers.

“I am willing and ready to inspire indigenous developers with creative ideas that can help the country, the continent and the wide world at large. I am here for tech development and entrepreneurship and business research,” Zuckerberg said, in engageing the community of tech start-ups in a question and answer session.

“I am proud of putting Hausa language on the platform. I know with time more languages from Nigeria will also go live, see, there are over 18 million Facebook users in Nigeria.

“Facebook team appreciates and like this, but we want to give more and do more as we grow the platform to accommodate business to business interface from the being just a social media networking portal,” he said.

He identified cost, infrastructure and awareness as the three major impediments to connectivity, adding that the firm has started to address these challenges.

Giving insight into how he used his engineering mindset to help build Facebook (FB Tech30), a company that's now worth north of $360 billion, he admitted giving up coding to manage his company a decision he said was "a little sad but tough”.

"There is elegance to writing code that I miss. The code always does what you want -- and people don't. “People can surprise you by going above and beyond expectations, too,” he added.

As a demonstration of the firm’s commitment to assisting start-ups grow, Zuckerberg said over 60 million small businesses won pages on Facebook, a platform that allowed them to connect with their customers and grow their businesses.

He said: “One of the unique things we are proud of at Facebook is that 60 million businesses have pages across the world; there is nothing like that has ever happened in the history of the world, that 60 million businesses use our pages to reach their customers across the world. This is so important because it is giving start-ups the same tools that traditionally only bigger companies have access to. For example, there was a time when only bigger company can build an app for its company, and now anyone could build and most-used app…You have your community and have your reach

“This is what we are doing with developers to check out and give tools to help them get off the ground. And we work with developers all from different cities to give free access to tools to help them grow business… for starters. So everything from thousands of dollars to if you want to advertise to have your page content on news field, you can. And if you are building up a tech business, you are paying nothing, you get adverts for free. So you have free cloud infrastructure, regular partnership with Amazon. You know one of the things we are going to do is to remove those barriers and to give anybody who is talented and have idea the opportunity to push through; start up something and get outside.”

Zuckerberg said he has created a platform that allows people to connect real time with friends and family members, adding that he usually felt touched when people tell their stories of how Facebook has helped them to connect with their loved ones.

He said: “You know what I think is powerful about Facebook is that it gives people the current state of where they are. You know there are touching stories that I hear. I used to walk down the street and hear people tell me how they are using Facebook, which is really interesting. It’s like you walking down the street and you hear: “Hey! I met my wife on Facebook and now we have a child”. So we have heard stories of separated twins, adopted parents.

“All these are awesome; this is what a connected world is all about. But for me, it’s more than it, my Sister lives on the other side of the country. While I was in California, she was in New York, I don’t get to hear from her as often as I want to, I don’t get to see her with her sons. And she was posting pictures on our family group and I get to see a lot that way. You know right now, right now I’m here, I love been here but I miss my daughter, and been able to get photos, sent to me from Priscilla (her mother) who is with her, you know, videos of her swinging in a swing is so great. I think that is the power of a connected world.”

According to Zuckerberg, “Facebook team has been increasingly involved in African initiatives this year. In June, the foundation -- the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative -- made a multi-million dollar investment in Andela, a two-year-old startup that trains African software developers and gives them full-time roles at international companies.”

“The team has also put its weight behind the "Free Basics," platform which provides free internet access to cellphone users in under-served countries, including Nigeria, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya,” he said.

For The use of Facebook to grow, he however said there is need for more investment in infrastructure which can at least work on a 2G network, adding that there is expectation that the country will move in tandem with time and development.

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