My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: F1rst Media launches Mobile Social Network on Saturday February 1st 2014 - Full Participation of Caribbean Islands and Liberalized E-Commerce needed for long term Success

Monday, February 3, 2014

F1rst Media launches Mobile Social Network on Saturday February 1st 2014 - Full Participation of Caribbean Islands and Liberalized E-Commerce needed for long term Success

Looks like another Caribbean start-up, F1rst Media, has begun the ramp up process to launch, with 100,000 members being their target as reported in Kelroy’s Geezam blog article entitled “F1rst aims to be Caribbean Technology Trailblazer”!

I’m of course talking about F1rst Caribbean, a online Recommendation Mobile Social Network that aims to connect Caribbean nationals to services that they want which goes live on Saturday February 1st 2014 as stated in the article “F1rst: Caribbean-owned online app aims to amalgamate Social media”, published Wednesday, January 22, 2014, The Jamaica Observer.

The difference with this Mobile Social Network is that like e-Media Interactive run by CEO and founder Tyrone Wilson as chronicled in my blog article entitled “e-Media Interactive launches the First Caribbean IPTV Network - IPTV Venture Capitalism in the Year of the Dragon”, F1rst is also owned by Caribbean Nationals. In this case a quartet of Trinidadians with a shared childhood past in high school who apparently kept in touch all this time:

1.      Kyle Maloney
2.      Nicolas Maloney
3.      Eesa Mohamed
4.      Kiev Wilkie

Apparently while all four were doing their Degrees in the US of A and UK, the idea began to bubble. Later upon meeting with Yohance Maycock in Barbados and Dwight Scott in Jamaica in 2011, the idea took shape and F1rst Media was born. By December 2012, they had begun hiring staff and now boast a complement of some 21 Caribbean Media Professionals with another 30 scattered across places the original four had made business contacts, that being Bulgaria, Indonesia and India. So says F1rst Media Product Marketing lead, Kris Granger.

So what exactly is F1rst Media? - Yelp, Foursquare and Google+ tailor made for the Caribbean

From what I’ve read, it appears to be a Mobile Social Network equivalent of Yelp, Foursquare and Google+ but with a business focus of helping disparate businesses in the Caribbean connects. According to F1rst Media's creative content specialist, Aisha Sylvester, quote: “F1rst is an online platform and mobile application that helps people navigate the region. So if you want to get information about any place, business, a doubles vendor in Trinidad to a pan chicken vendor in Jamaica, you can get it there.”

Great, say many toting smartphones. But businesses are skeptical of joining yet another Marketing company that promises huge returns on a shoestring budget typical of most Social Media as noted in my Geezam blog article entitled “Social Media Marketing – Advertising and Marketing in Ja on a Shoe-String”, even if it’s unique by virtue of having its own Mobile Social Network. 

F1rst Media plans to use the current fervor for smartphones in Jamaica and the Caribbean created by the DL600 and its companion the DL700 launched by Telecom Provider Digicel as chronicled in my blog article entitled “Jamaicans fall in love with Digicel's DL600 and DL700 during Christmas 2013 - Sub-US$100 smartphones driving rapid smartphone adoption in Jamaica as Manufacturing is Possible” to jump-start their entry into this lucrative Social Media Marketing business.

How F1rst Media Plans to make money – 1/3 population of Caribbean Islands needed to achieve Critical Mass

Their money making strategy seems to be basically to develop clients and get they to create Business Pages on their Social Media Website and then get smartphone-toting peeps to rate their businesses and connect with them. So says F1rst Media Director and Partner, Dwight Scott, quote: “At present, businesses cannot decipher specifically and uniquely who are their customers. When we look at some of the platforms that are available, they are static. Our boutique platform, which allows users to find any business and any individuals throughout the entire region, provides businesses with the option (for a fee) to conduct promotions through email, text messages and Social media platforms”.

This can be anything from a check-in at a location (foursquare right there!), a recommendation of a product or service sold at a location, even pricing (Yelp right there!) and some IM (Instant Messaging) with Video and Voice Chat capability (that Google right there!).

However, as a blogger myself that recently embedded Social Media Google+ Comment Box into my blog as noted in my blog article entitled “How to integrate a Facebook and Google+ Comment Box in Blogger to increase Blog Traffic - Managing your Google+, Facebook and Blogger Profiles”, Social Media’s promise of low-cost Product marketing is susceptible to the vagaries of popularity.

If it “nah happen” then you might as well be the man in the forest shouting but no-one is around to hear, no matter how much SEO (Search Engine Optimization) you do. For F1rst Media to be a hit, it has to literally be better at Social Media than Facebook and Google+ or even new debutantes to the Mobile Social Network game Kik as described in my blog article entitled “Kik hits the 100 million member mark - Open Source Mobile Rise of the Planet of the Apes for Mobile Social Networks to develope smartphone OS Defense Against the Dark Arts of Google+”.

Still, I guess then it’s really a lot more like Yelp, Foursquare and Google+ then, but built deliberately to facilitate businesses getting to know their customer better. If this involves any invasion of privacy, then making money from advertising may not work out well, especially if their size fails to reach critical mass of at least 1/3 of the population of each Caribbean Country.

The will also have to deal with issues of how to authenticate and identify Caribbean Nationals that Join the Mobile Social Network, or it might end up like other Social Networks full of anonymous faceless individuals that log in either from smartphones, Tablets or Laptops. A list of phone numbers gained from such a Mobile Social Network isn’t much help to marketing to clients in the Caribbean unless you can put a name and personality based on their Mobile Social Network Profile.

It may very well end up utilizing cookies and the analytics gained by the company being sold to Business that Join their Mobile Social Network. This as many may initially join using their Desktop or Laptop computers, giving F1rst Media the ability to track your browsing habits within the F1rst Media Mobile Social Network.

E-Commerce is the moneymaker for Mobile Social Networks – Mobile Money Digital Wallets Required

Albeit Caribbean and not too highly concerned about cyber security issues, when it becomes a matter of money, there may be a problem. E-Commerce is the way to go, both via monetizing Gaming on their Mobile Social Network as well as Sales and Transactions across the Caribbean for physical goods.

To process Credit Cards for online Transactions, however, requires that you use a Credit Card or Prepaid Debit Card such as Scotia VISA Debit Card or CIBC VISA Debit Card and be connected via a Third-Party Payment Gateway as explained in my blog article entitled “How to receive Payments online and spend it here in Jamaica - If it doesn't make spendable cash it doesn't make sense to Work online or do E-Commerce”. 

Worse, to receive payments online requires that you have an International Prepaid Debit Card, as our local pair of Scotia VISA Debit Card and CIBC VISA Debit Card can only allow you to spend online, not receive money.

Payoneer, an International Prepaid Debit Card powered by MasterCard is currently the accepted Standard for Internationals (persons outside of the US of A working for clients in the US) to receive Funds from online purchase as noted in my blog article entitled “Payoneer, the US based Prepaid MasterCard Debit Card - How E-Commerce MSME's, Online workers and Reggae or Dancehall Artiste can receive money via Paypal and spend it in Jamaica”.

There are other alternatives to Payoneer, but currently they are the standard in receiving money from E-Commerce online without the hassle of having to wait several days for a Cheque from a Payment Gateway such as Paypal or ClickBank to clear. I’ll be doing an article explaining who and how the other International Prepaid Debit Card Services work in the near future.

In the meantime, F1rst Media Director and Partner, Dwight Scott, is urging Caribbean Nationals to lobby their respective governments (actually the Banks too!) to allow Jamaica and other Caribbean Nations that have an interest in E-Commerce to allow for direct transactions to bank accounts in the Caribbean instead of the complex system of Payment Gateway go-betweens quote: “We are anticipating legislation changes that will empower our ambitions. We cannot allow legislation to remain static, we are going to push it. But we first need the tribes of people to take the lobby to governments”.

F1rst Media ahead of their time – NCB’s Mobile Money and Remittances across the Caribbean may be their savior

This may well explain the reason why few Jamaican entrepreneurs have decided to build their own E-Commerce Websites. As with renting a POS (Point of Sale) Terminal, there are rental fees and costs associated with having these International Prepaid Debit Cards that reduce the benefits of online sales, especially when shipping costs are factored in.

There is even the possibility that when NCB (National Commercial Bank) launches their Prepaid VISA or possibly MasterCard Debit Card after having cut their relationship with MoneyGram as predicted in my blog article entitled “NCB Under Pressure cuts ties with Remittance Agent MoneyGram - NCB using innovation Edge to plan Mobile Money, Remittance and E-Commerce Triple Play Services by September 2014”, it may be empowered to do Remittances and also E-Commerce by directly receiving funds in Bank Accounts and even Mobile Money, opening up local and even Regional E-Commerce opportunities in Jamaica.

I’m really skeptical F1rst Media  Mobile Social Network will work, as it seems a tad bit overzealous and optimistic for a Marketing Company to launch with their own Mobile Social Network that has less members than Facebook or even Google+, slated to beat Facebook by 2016 as predicted in my blog article entitled “Google+ is expanding rapidly and is set to beat Facebook by 2016 - Batman the Dark Knight Rises as the new Social Network King”.

Worse, the real moneymaker, E-Commerce, won’t be in place for yet another year or so, meaning that their company is burning through a pile of cash possibly acquired from Private Equity i.e. VC (Venture Capitalist) partners forged in the respective European countries.

Still, I love the idea of a home-grown Mobile Social Network. I’ll be especially enthused when it hits critical mass and even moreso when F1rst Media allows E-Commerce.

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