Today, myself and a few tech bloggers were invited for Facebook’s Townhall Q/A session in Lagos, Nigeria
By the way, Facebook Townhall session is a Facebook tradition where Zuckerberg gets to answer questions about the company. The event (Broadcasted on Facebook Live) was held at Landmark Center and had in attendance top developers and entrepreneurs in the country:
Without further ado, here are the top 11 questions that were asked today:
(I typed Mark Zuckerberg’s answers as he was talking, so I might have omitted some examples he gave)
Question: What impressions do you have of Nigeria on your first visit?
The thing that is striking is the entrepreneurial energy. I think when you are trying to build something, what ends up mattering the most is who wants it the most and who cares the most to build it and you feel that here, that passion and that entrepreneurial energy.
Question: What strategy does Facebook have in place for those in the rural communities to get connected?
If you want to connect everyone in the world, then making sure that everyone has access to the internet is a really important thing. Across the world, more than half of the people don’t have access to the internet, and here in Nigeria, that is true too.
So, whether what you care about is connecting people with their friends and families or helping people start businesses, the Internet is one of the most fundamental parts of infrastructure that I think needs to exist. My trip here is mostly focused on entrepreneurship and developers, and I have met so many people who are building things. I went to the CCHub in Yaba yesterday, and I met this woman, Temi, who is building this company called Life bank, it organizes blood donations so that people can give blood and it gets blood to those who need them. You meet someone like that, and you are like, this is a thing that needs to exist. If everyone had the opportunity to build something like this, then the world would be a better place. If you had everyone on the internet, then you have more shots at getting it right.
We have a 3-part plan for spreading the Internet.
The first part is ‘Building infrastructure’, so that no matter where you are, you can get access to a signal. We are launching Satellites to beam connectivity; Solar powered drones that are cell-phone towers in the sky, to make sure the network spread and reach everyone.
The Second part of the plan is to make the network affordable – by building cheaper infrastructures and getting app developers to use less data. In the last few years, we have made this big effort at Facebook to make it so that our apps now take one tenth of the amount of data they did a few years ago.
The third part is making sure people understand why the internet is valuable for them to use. So we are working on programs like Free basics which is now live. Programs like ExpressWifi, where the first two weeks of the internet are free.
I think those three steps: Spreading access, lowering the cost and spreading awareness are the key things. If we do that, then in the next 10 or 15 years we would get the other half of the world that is not on the Internet there.
How easy was it to move from software development to running a company?
So I am an engineer, like a lot of you guys. For me, Engineering comes down to 2 real principles. The first one for me is that you think of every problem as a system, and every system can be better, and that goes for whether you are writing code or building hardware, these things are all systems and can be improved.
The second is that you break down problems from the biggest stage down to smaller pieces that you can solve.
There is something fundamental to the engineering mindset that you guys share as developers, and if you keep your eye on that, you can solve a lot of problems that way.
What strategy were you using to market Facebook at the initial stage?
What we’ve always found is that getting the people to use our product and enjoying it, and evangelizing it to their friends to use it, is by far the most effective way to market a product. We are probably a little lucky since it is easier than normal to take something like Facebook and give people the tools to spread it to their friends. We have tried a lot of things at Facebook, we used to have a traditional marketing team that did communications and thought about stuff like buying ads to help grow our community, we still have that for other things. But we used to do that for growing our community. What we found was we could make a bigger impact by having an engineering team that was focused on building products that empowered people in our community to spread Facebook to the people that they wanted to get on, that worked a lot better.
Having an engineering style growth team has been really valuable and thinking about things as an engineering problem rather than just a traditional business problem is a powerful way to approach the world
What are your plans for Whatsapp?
Our primary priority for Whatsapp is to continue growing the community and connecting more people around the world. There are a billion people who use Whatsapp every month, and there are 5 billion people in the world who have phones and we kinda think that everyone who uses phones does text messaging on their phones.
Our long-term potential plan for Whatsapp is going to depend on how big the community gets. That said, we are already thinking of how people can connect to businesses through Whatsapp.
What are plans to make Oculus more accessible to people in the developing market?
Right now, the Oculus is more expensive than we want it. However, the ecosystem is going to keep developing, we are going to get the hardware to be less expensive and better, but it could take a while, but I think we would get there, not just on VR, but even on AR. I think in the future we are going to have an AR product, where you have glasses, but instead of being able to see the world and have corrected vision, you would also be able to put virtual objects in it. That is going to happen.
Do you find the need to customize current products for emerging markets?
There are a bunch of different ways that we think about customizing our products; one is language. The internet isn’t very useful if the information that you’re trying to find is not in the language that you know. So one of the things we have done is that we have tried to spread Facebook, so it is in as many languages as possible by giving our community the power to translate the services themselves. One of the things we are proud of is that we reached a lot of different dialects and languages than no other Internet services because our communities are the one doing the translation. This year, we opened up Hausa, and we are committed to opening up ten more dialects.
There is also the content. We are also working with local entrepreneurial communities to make sure we are building stuff in those languages. One of the things I am hoping to do here is to visit Nollywood since it is the best resource for building content. There’s also a lot of technical work.
We want to make sure Facebook loads quickly for people using 2G networks or 3G networks and different network conditions around the world.
What do you see happening ten years from now?
One of my favorite technology quotes is that the best way to predict the future is to create it. I think the future can go in a lot of different directions. Another favorite saying is that it is much easier to predict what is going to happen in the world 20 or 25 years into the future than to predict what is going to happen five years into the future.
The mission that I care about at Facebook is still much the same as at the beginning – which is connecting people.
Name one thing that was the game-changer for you?
When you’re an entrepreneur, one important thing is to stay focused on learning as much as you can – you never know as much as you need to in the beginning, no matter what. The secret is that Learning is a process where you try things, and you fail.
You shouldn’t be afraid of failure, but you should fail and learn from it and just make sure that you are doing what you can to learn as quickly as possible, and I think that is why Facebook has been able to evolve so much.
The best entrepreneurs are those that are focused on learning as much as they can every day.
What is your current diaper changing speed record and tip on changing diaper?
I think I’d get 20-seconds on the pee diaper.
So, here is the secret, you gotta slide the new diaper in before you take the old one off. 😀
Your plans for Africa as a whole, and precisely Nigeria?
Here in Nigeria, there are 18 MILLION people who use Facebook, there is a lot to go, and a little fewer than that use Whatsapp. Part of the reason why I am here now is that this is where a lot of the future is going to get built, I think you have to hopefully have patience with us. Because I think we are not going to build it, you guys are. We want to do our part, we want to help invest in connectivity, help connects everyone here, and if I am back in 5 years, and we have not made a lot of progress, I’d be pretty disappointed. But I think we are the beginning of this journey, but I think the key thing is that connectivity in the economy here isn’t going to be fundamentally built by companies like Facebook, but the reason why I want to be with you today is that you are building this, and I think that that is the key thing, and I think the more that we can do to empower folks here to build the future that is the better we can do.
My hope is that the next time we are here there would be a lot more than 18 million people.
You can watch the 1-hour long Q/A session here