On day 2 (Wednesday 31 August) of the visit of Facebook
founder/CEO, Mark Zuckerberg to Lagos, Nigeria, he had a
very busy day beginning with a jog with some friends,
partners and aides across the Lekki-Ikoyi suspended bridge.
The tech wizard and seventh richest man in the world later
had a town hall meeting with developers and entrepreneurs at
Landmark Event Centre in Oniru Estate, Victoria Island.
Zuckerberg in his opening remarks at the signature town hall
meeting said that in Lagos, and across the continent, things
are changing really quickly.
According to him, the economy is shifting from a resource
based economy to an entrepreneurial and knowledge based
economy with Nigerians leading that change on the
He later met with some select member of Nigeria’s
entertainment fraternity, specifically Nollywood luminaries
such as Richard Mofe-Damijo, Kunle Afolayan, Rita Dominic
and stand-up comedy great, Basketmouth.
However, before meeting those entertainers, Zuckerberg
fielded five questions thrown at him from the online
community during the town hall meeting streamed live. He
shares his opinion of Nigeria, the people and culture, the
vibrant developer and entrepreneurial ecosystem and most
important, his fascination about Nigerian movie industry, the
Nollywood. FUNSHO AROGUNDADE monitors the rapport
Zuckerberg at the Lagos Town Hall meeting.
Q: What impressions do you have of Nigeria and its
people since you came? Do they align or contrast with
the impressions you had before your visit?
The thing that is striking for me about Nigeria is the
entrepreneurial energy. When you are trying to build
something, what matters the most is just who wants it
the most. Here in Nigeria, as soon as you get off the
plane and start talking to people, you feel the passion and
that entrepreneurial energy. I can tell you two stories just
from last night when I talked to probably no more than
100 people and I was really blown away.
First story, I stopped by at this training programme by
Andela that my foundation invested in to help train really
talented folks across the continent to be world class
engineers and work for companies around the world. I sat
down and had the opportunity to meet Blessing Eboye,
she told me the story of how she applied to the
programme. The first time she didn’t get in and that didn’t
stop her. She showed up again next time and they figured
out that they had to give her a trial. She was allowed to
go ahead for the training programme and she crushed it.
Now she is a top engineer working for a multinational
company. If you have that attitude you win.
The other story was when I went down the street and
stopped by this little store. I met Rosemary Njoku who is
selling (internet) connectivity to people nearby. She
already had a shop selling things to people and she chose
to grow her business further, so she got hooked up with
folks who worked with Facebook and the Express WiFi
programme that we set up to empower local
entrepreneurs to spread connectivity. I asked her how
she was able to make the transition in her business from
selling one thing to also telling people that she provides
connectivity. She said it wasn’t easy. She had to printout
flyers and go around town evangelising about her
business. She even had to hire dancers. She told me she
now has about 3000 customers paying for connectivity.
Her connectivity part of the business is now bigger than
the original business that she started out with.
What really important are the hardwork and the drive I
feel you have here in Lagos.
Q: When you started Facebook and you were still writing
codes, how did you handle marketing when the company
was still a startup?
What we did was to get people who use our product or
service and enjoy it to evangelise to their friends. This by
far was the most effective way to market a product. We
are actually a little bit lucky because that is what our
product is, helping you communicate with your friends.
We tried a lot of different things at Facebook. We used to
have a traditional marketing team that helped grow our
communities. We still have that for other things like
helping to explain what the company does. But we used it
to grow our customers rather than our communities.
We found out that we can actually make bigger impact by
having an engineering team that was focused on building
products that empowered people in our communities to
spread Facebook to the people they want on Facebook.
That actually worked a lot better. That’s one of the
biggest secrets to Facebook marketing. If you are
building a social product, one of the biggest features of a
community like Facebook is that your friends are there.
That was one of the key things that we needed to do and I
know there are lessons for that and all the different
businesses that you are thinking of building. Having an
engineering style growth team is been a really valuable
thing and thinking about this as an engineering problem
rather than a traditional style is a really powerful way to
approach the world.
Q: You predicted the future with Facebook. What do you
see happening ten years from now and how does Mark
want to be remembered?
One of my favourite technology quotes is that the best
way to predict the future is to create it. It is much easier
to predict what is going to happen in the world 20-25
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 very much the same as in the
beginning, though I didn’t think we could do it in the
beginning but now I think we might. When I was getting
started in college, we could talk about connecting the
whole world but you don’t actually think about spreading
internet to people who don’t have it. As a college student
you are just happy when people use your service over the
internet. But here we are, 12 years later we have almost
2 billion people using Facebook and we have built a
company that is pretty successful and we make enough
money so that we can make long term investments which
may not be profitable in the next 10-15 years. And I think
through those investments, we are making partnerships
with non-profits, mobile operators and governments all
over the world. I think that this dream of getting
everybody connected is possible in our lifetime.
Q: What is Facebook’s plan for the media, news and
publishing platforms in Nigeria who are currently going
through the transformation from news print to online?
One of the big things I think we need to do to connect
everyone is make sure there is good content representing
all cultures and languages. The internet in order for it to
be useful you need to have good contents that you
understand and you want to interact with. One of the
things I am most excited about my trip to Lagos is going
to check out Nollywood. From everything I have heard,
Nollywood sounds like a national treasure and the ability
to produce video content that is moving and emotional
transcends boundaries and will help tell stories of the
amazing innovation, engineering and culture to the whole
world. After being here for a short period of time I do
believe that there’s no way Nigeria will not end up
shaping what is being built around the world. Once
people appreciate that, I think the whole world is going to
be better of.
Q: Name one thing that was a game changer for you that
you did differently while building Facebook?
You’ll never know as much as you need to in the
beginning no matter what. This was especially true for
me because when I started out, I was 19 years old and I
didn’t know anything about business. There were a lot of
stuffs I didn’t know. The only way we were going to
succeed was if I focus on not what I thought I knew but
on making sure I learn everything else as quickly as
possible. The secret here is that learning is a process.
When you try things and you fail, you shouldn’t be afraid
of failure, you should fail and learn from it and make sure
you are doing what you can to learn as quickly as
possible. I do think that’s why Facebook has been able to
evolve so much. Facebook started off as a service for
students and it has made a lot of transitions and you only
do this by focusing on learning as much as you can.
A lot of times people think these things are straight lines
but the best entrepreneurs and the best organisations I
have seen are obsessively focused on learning as much
as they can every day. As entrepreneurs, engineers and
developers, you don’t have the success you are having by
making mistakes along the way and rebounding from
them and that takes certain persistence and mindsets
that you are going to get it done. So I think, if you just
stay focused on that, you will succeed.