Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 27th 2013 Contents A30
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, August 27, 2013
It s hard to get annoyed for long with
the team at F1RST, a new technology start-
up that s gambling big on creating a
Caribbean Internet platform designed to
lubricate the schedules of today s connected
At last Thursday s private meet and greet
for bloggers and the media, they were oozing
charm and wit. These model-beautiful young
people dress sharply and have a big idea
that might just take off if they stop holding
onto it so tightly.
The team sort of demoed the project last
week, lifting the curtain of the Web site s
placeholder and sign-up page at
http://f1rstt.com, but we didn t actually see
more than might be deduced from the pro-
motional material on the existing site or the
It might be best then, to explain exactly
what F1RST hopes to do, but that s some-
thing that the team doesn t seem to have
an elevator pitch for.
Instead, they ve developed a way of talking
around the project in delightful arcs and
phrases that may have made eager fans of
the 30 "Mavens" that they ve recruited to
explain the concept to businesses but that
patter won t satisfy savvy users who are
keen to kick the tyres of the site.
F1RST is a little bit Yelp, encouraging users
to comment and rate businesses and expe-
riences they find on the site, a dash of
Foursquare, allowing you to check in when
you re at a hotspot, a hearty helping of yellow
pages, encouraging businesses to register
their presence on the Web site along with
a garnishing of Groupon, giving those busi-
nesses an opportunity to offer discounts to
Since most of these services have only a
tentative foothold in the local market relative
to social-media gorilla Facebook, F1RST has
a chance to become the go-to resource for
this type of functionality in the region.
If you have a broadband-connected smart-
phone, and love to hit the town, this might
well be, as they say, the bess ting ever.
So why, then, won t F1RST let you play
with their new Web site?
The company has signed up more than
10,675 people interested in using the site
since it launched its placeholder site but
intend to launch when it has 100,000 expres-
sions of interest.
This confused me. No, let me be clear,
this made my head spin. And I said so.
Rather loudly, I must confess.
T&T accounts for 70 per cent of the
signups so far, with 30 per cent from their
other two major target markets, Jamaica and
Barbados. Launch events and Maven-driven
#F1RSTnation programmes are planned for
those markets soon, so their percentages
will probably rise quickly.
But right now, the site is being used by
around 50 people each day, part of F1RST s
internship programmes with Costaatt, UWI
and the Maple Leaf International School.
According to Kris Granger, the company s
product marketing lead: "A lot of the func-
tionality has been complete for some time
"Our strategy is to compile rich and valu-
able content (business details, photos and
reviews) to ensure the product will be imme-
diately valuable when someone uses it for
the first time."
This is exactly the sort of thing that sounds
exactly right to business people used to the
commonsense approach of preparing a prod-
uct and then bringing it to market.
The team, co-founders Nicolas Maloney,
Kyle Maloney, Kiev Wilkie, Eesa Mohammed
and regional directors Dwight Scott and
Yohance Maycock have been working on the
project for the past two years, spending their
own money to bring it this far. A corporate
project, Novus Technologies
(novustechltd.com) has given them an oppor-
tunity to develop this consumer-facing con-
cept, but they are proceeding carefully with
F1RST, and it s too gingerly by far.
F1RST s beautiful team argue the point
with such engaging smiles you almost want
to forget that the Internet doesn t work that
Users want to participate in building a
social Web site, they want to get some virtual
bruises and defend the occasional technology
collapse. They want to be champions of a
great idea that s rising from the murk of
reality, not the owners of a shiny new toy.
It s the difference between building a rally
car and buying a Porsche and the F1RST
team is missing a chance to court the folks
most likely to really work on building their
Web site while they finesse the details of
bringing their shiny new eurocar to mar-
What they really need to do right now is
to kick down the walls of this well-manicured
garden to let more users carve their own
desire paths through the site. The insights
that early users will deliver will offer them
more useful feedback that they will ever get
from Mavens and well catered chats with
media people because they will see quite
clearly what their customers actually want.
But that means forgoing building the per-
fect structure for the chaos of continuous
I think back to last Thursday and those
smartly-dressed young men and women
and I wonder if they have what it takes to
endure the scrappiness of living in a house
while it gets built.
• Read a transcript of my interview with
F1RST's Kris Granger here:
On being young, gifted and techy
Links Archive August 26th 2013 August 28th 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page