MEST hosts Facebook’s chief product officer, Chris Cox
From photos of Facebook’s founding team coding away in a tiny room to images of their thoughtfully unique office spaces around the globe today, Chris shared a story of Facebook’s path, its struggles and its vision for the future.
“Simplicity meets audacity”
The vision of Facebook speaks to the constant, conscious effort to reach users by remaining as simple as possible while choosing names and features that are easily understood and adopted by their audience. “We could have built a whole presentation on the cute names we thought of for Live video streaming,” Chris explained. “But in the end we simply called it ‘Live’–because that’s what it is.”
Chris stressed the importance of constantly monitoring user data, calling real-time dashboards “God’s gift to running a business.” The Facebook team looks to its most devoted customers and their user behavior to determine how the product is being used, which new features should be prioritized and how online behavior is evolving.
He spoke of Facebook’s culture, describing the team as continually scrappy despite their enormous size. “It still feels like a startup. What’s exciting now is you have absolutely no idea the next day which problem you’re going to have to solve.” He described the way they were able to determine the exact point when teams began to silo or feel disjointed early and “nip it in the bud” to ensure consistent communication.
As for the future of the social giant, Chris says there’s an increasing focus on communities based on shared experiences–from rare illnesses to college sororities. “The original Facebook wasn’t about your friends. It was about getting to know all the other people in your school. Going into 2017, we’re trying to invest in those communities and groups where you have a shared interest or experience, to see how you can stay in touch the way you stay in touch with your close friends.”
Of course, talk of the future also involved planes beaming down internet access, inside-out tracking using AI technology and an increased effort to offer access to Facebook in areas where internet data is difficult to come by.
Facebook + MEST
The guest lecture gave MEST entrepreneurs exclusive insights and lessons from Chris’s experiences, which really hit home as they begin to forge their own company culture, develop their products and find ways of using customer feedback to inform major decisions.
Following Chris’s story, four of our current entrepreneurs-in-training teams pitched their businesses for the Facebook group, including Aidah, an online shopping helper for West Africa that leverages the Facebook Messenger platform; Stake With Me, a platform to facilitate sports betting in West Africa; Buildpals, a platform to connect construction contractors and workers for hire; and Qisimah, a radio advertising tool that offers brands data-driven insights around their listeners and their campaigns.
The Facebook team left MEST impressed and interested in learning even more. The Guest Lecture Series has been a core feature of MEST since its inception in 2008, giving entrepreneurs unique access to learn from industry leaders such as TechCrunch’s Europe Editor, Mike Butcher; Oteema Yirenkyi, country manager of Microsoft Ghana; Alastair Curtis, who helped to launch Uber in Nigeria and Kenya; as well as many others.
The MEST Training Program and the MEST Incubator program provide training, investment and mentoring for aspiring technology entrepreneurs with the goal of creating globally successful companies that create wealth and jobs locally in Africa. Each year top graduates from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa are selected to receive comprehensive training across the spectrum of skills required to build successful tech businesses, including computer programming, software development and product management. Find more MEST stories here.