Facebook Vice President of Communications - Monetizing Messenger and Virtual Assistant M

    imageAt the dawn of his entrepreneurial career, David Marcus worked in a field completely unrelated to artificial intelligence. He left University of Geneva to create the first technology company, GTN Telecom . There he came up with a kind of know-how - to offer customers a premium service for sms-voting in television shows, including Nouvelle Star in France and Pop Idol in the UK. He served as CEO of GTN Telecom for four years and sold the business to World Access.

    Source: ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

    He moved to Silicon Valley in 2008. There, he created Zong , a provider for making payments via mobile phone. He also sold this company in 2011 and earned $ 240 million. Became a buyereBay , which at that time owned PayPal . Marcus himself received an offer to become vice president of PayPal, and later became president of the company.

    When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last year invited PayPal President David Markus to dinner, he thought it would be about a business partnership between the two companies.

    But Zuckerberg suggested that Marcus change his team of 15,000 people in PayPal, to 200 people on Facebook and the status of vice president of communications products.

    The chance that falls once in a lifetime for one person and once in a lifetime on a generational scale was the main argument for telling Zuckerberg “yes,” says Marcus. The chance is to turn the Facebook messenger into a new platform that billions of people use.

    Marcus has been engaged in the implementation of these ambitious plans for a year and a half. During this time, the Facebook messenger has become an independent product, the number of active users has grown from 300 million to 700 million people per month.

    Facebook later competed with virtual personal assistants. Service M must compete with such personal assistants as Siri of Apple and Cortana of Microsoft, equipped with a voice interface and speech recognition.

    Here, I spend 90% of my time on creating the most advanced product that will give people new opportunities, and not on coming up with goals and then deciding how to implement them.

    “If the messenger system is not sure whether it can independently complete the task, it redirects the request to the employee,” he explains. The virtual assistant M has good potential, Marcus is sure. Now it is being tested by several hundred residents of the Bay Area in San Francisco.

    Unlike competitors Siri and Cortana , M uses both resources, both an algorithm and a team of people, to process requests, therefore, in addition to simply searching for information, the service is able to carry out actions: book a table in a restaurant, for example.

    Marcus himself likes to use the M service to send gifts, in particular flowers. At the same time, he categorically rejects the assumption that artificial intelligence will soon become smarter than humans:

    I think people will take part in this process for a long time - a very, very long time.

    The Facebook messenger will provide a new revenue stream when it introduces a paid service. Most likely, paid services will be offered to retailers who can use them for direct communication with customers, promoting goods and holding various promotions.

    The entire business model of other similar Facebook services depends on the results of work on monetizing the messenger. In the summer, Facebook announced the release of a version of the messenger for business, which would allow trading companies to interact with customers and provide a tool for sending money, Vedomosti writes with reference to the Financial Times.

    Market participants are closely monitoring the fate of virtual assistant M: turning it into a source of income would not only support the common business of Facebook, but also would become a model for the team that commercializes the WhatsApp messenger, which was bought last year for $ 22 billion. WhatsApp now operates independently of its founders, Jan Kum and Brian Acton, who work near Marcus.

    “We often meet,” remarks Marcus. If Marcus succeeds in monetizing the functions of the messenger, he will be able to extend his leverage to another 1 billion WhatsApp users. “I hope we find something that works and becomes a business model for both services,” he says. “But so far it is not working.”

    Facebook is among the favorites on Wall Street: stocks have risen more than 150% since listing started in 2012, and revenue grew 38% to $ 17.2 billion this year.

    Estimates of the prospects of various companies are actually not so obvious, and the companies themselves are not so transparent, warns Marcus:
    I think the public market is a healthier means of financing than private investment. Evaluation of some private company projects is somewhat problematic in some respects.

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