Business

F1rst: Caribbean-owned online app aims to amalgamate social media

Wednesday, January 22, 2014    

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F1rst, a Caribbean-owned integrated mobile application which ties together business and consumer information on a single platform, goes live on February 1.

The product seeks to localise the Caribbean experience through the amalgamation of several social media platform -- except it is owned and domiciled in the region.

"F1rst is an online platform and mobile application that helps people navigate the region," said Aisha Sylvester, F1rst Media's creative content specialist. "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."

The application, which becomes active ahead of the website (F1rst.com "goes live when 100,000 people sign up", according to the website, which had 39,509 registered users up to yesterday evening), allows users to access directory services, write reviews, rate experiences, and upload photos. But it goes further in deepening customer-to-business and business-to-business integration and interaction, according to F1rst Media director and partner, Dwight Scott.

"At present, businesses cannot decipher specifically and uniquely who are their customers," Scott told the Jamaica Observer in an interview last week. "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".

Apart from service fees, F1rst aims to make money from advertising, click per view, and cost per impression, in the first instance, but the company will also provide data services, such as analytics that can give businesses insight into consumer preferences, and eventually engage directly in e-commerce.

"There are five stages of travelling: dreaming, research, booking, experience, and sharing," explained Sylvester. "Currently, people dream through Pinterest search through Google, book through Travelocity and Expedia and share through Instagram and Twitter, and the only thing we control now is the experience.

"When F1rst is up and running, we will have control over four of the five, and we eventually will get control over the fifth."

E-commerce is still a way off.

Online transactions in the Caribbean mostly go through third parties and is not done seamlessly.

"We are anticipating legislation changes that will empower our ambitions," said Scott. "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"

At present, F1rst Media, which made its first hire in December 2012, has 21 staff operating in the region and collaborates with another 30 in places such as Bulgaria, Indonesia and India.

The alliances with developers outside the region were established through the original conceptualisers -- four friends from secondary school in Trinidad, Kyle Maloney, Nicolas Maloney, Eesa Mohamed and Kiev Wilkie, who went on to study in the UK and US -- according to Kris Granger, F1rst Media product marketing lead.

"(About three years ago) they met up with Yohance Maycock in Barbados and Dwight Scott in Jamaica, came together and talked about a better well-connected Caribbean," he said.

Three years later, the company is about to make its first lunge after a share in a market dominated by companies based in developed countries outside the region, by providing the authenticity of the Caribbean experience.

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