Kingston Beta: The Town Hall Meeting
Kingston Beta is the bimonthly networking event and Startup pitch platform where Jamaican and Caribbean tech/internet/mobile/business professionals, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts come To Learn. To Be Inspired. To Network.
It was founded by Ingrid Riley, entrepreneur, blogger and tech evangelist in 2007. Since then, Kingston Beta has seen hundreds of attendees and scores of startup pitches from Jamaica, plus Caribbean startups from the region and the United States.
Today’s meeting was different than I expected. I had never been to a Kingston Beta meeting before and somewhat expected a hollywood style frenzy of the who’s who in tech. Ok so I was a bit imaginative, the who’s who of tech was there but it was a lot more down to earth than expected. The theme of the event was a Town Hall Meeting. The main discussion was supposed to take place after a Skype conference call with a guest speaker, but ninjas kept stealing the wireless signal and we had to abandon hope.
The discussion was vibrant and informative, unfortunately the habit of introducing people came mid-way discussion, so if you attended please add comments below so I can give kudos where due.
The initial topic was how Digicel’s 4G is going to help spur entrepreneur-ism in Jamaica. The general consensus is that nobody could say how it would help directly, however greater internet access would aid development, especially in the form of jobs and web applications. Ingrid also pointed out that Facebook now has over four hundred thousand (400,000) Jamaican users. These statistics show just how much potential there is in social media and web development, since there is a large user base to interact with.
From the initial discussion we moved on to the value of social media, after the town’s Doubting Thomas, who’s real name is David Clayton, asked who was making money from social media. A long discussion ensued going over the difference between using social media to make money and making money from social media. This discussion drew contributions from nearly everyone, it was quite informative. As one of the last people to hold the mic, I summarised that to make money from social media you either need to be a social media marketer, a company using social media marketing, a content generator/developer, a content distributor, or a data harvester. Everyone who makes money from or as a result of social media falls into one of those 5 categories.
Foursquare, my favourite topic was also discussed. The question came up about who used it, what it was about, how does it benefit businesses? Of the 15 or so people in the room, about 5 were on Foursquare, we were referred to as the early adopters. Earlier in a twitter discussion with one of my followers we figured there were around 100 Foursquare users in Jamaica. I am beginning to think there are many more. Foursquare is a geolocation social networking application that allows users to compete for points and mayorships. In essence it is a game that allows venues to reward users by offering specials. Users who share their Foursquare activity with Facebook and Twitter then help to build presence for the venue they are checked in at. It was also noted that there are serious privacy concerns for a new user, however once someone understands that it is not always best to check in, or share your location then they can proceed to becoming mayor of their most frequented venues. I also managed to testify on the increased discussion levels online for Chilitos Mexican Restaurant because of their Foursquare special.
My Elite Grocer’s Gale Peart confronted the developers at the meeting by asking why there were not more local smart-phone and web applications, especially for Facebook. She emphasised local media houses had good content that needed create mediums for sharing it. Also corporate Jamaica could use these applications for better service and support. Hey with 400,000 Facebook users, if 10,000 of them paid US$1 for an application then that is the equivalent of a young programmer’s salary for a year.
Overall the event was good, had a long discussion afterwards as well with some of the attendees. I will definately try to attend the next one, I hear there are big plans for it being part of an international entrepreneurs week. Please comment below if I have left out anything.
Twitter users who attended:
@yorkali @ingridriley @persephone101 @chrysalisceo @forresterod @myelitegrocer @moniquepowell @top5jamaica @marciaforbes @CRAC16 these are just the usernames I know, please comment if I forgot you. Thanks! ’til next time!