Facebook Developer Garage Vancouver Recap

When I told Dennis Pilarinos from Microsoft that I wanted to do a technology event with someone from Facebook, he recommended and introduced me to his friend Mike Vernal – Director of Engineering for Facebook Platforms. As much as I wish I could code, I am not a developer.  I just wanted to see an event like this happen again in Vancouver.  So, with a little help from Dennis, Jason Bailey and other local tech friends,  Bootup hosted the 4th Facebook Developer Garage in Vancouver last night at District 319.

Lean Startup Panel
Before the Facebook Garage began, local entrepreneurs Boris Mann, Eric Woodward, Mischa Steiner Jovic and Mack Flavelle along with investor, Brent Holliday debated the pros and cons of the Lean Startup Model.  Eric Woodward is clearly not a fan of this approach to starting a company, while Boris Mann could see both sides of the debate and talked about some of the basic concepts that Eric Ries professes.  As an investor, Brent explained how the lean startup methodology has had an impact on Venture investing – noting that big VCs, who used to invest millions of money at the Series A stage are now willing to invest as little as $200,000.  Many thanks to Mack Flavelle for organizing this panel and for moderating a very lively discussion that was cut short to keep us on schedule.  This panel clearly could have gone on for quite some time.

Eric Woodward, Boris Mann & Mischa Steiner Jovic

Russ Ovans, Backstage Technologies

When I decided to organize the Garage last August, Jason Bailey introduced me to a number of potential speakers including Russ Ovans, Founder of BackStage, which was acquired by Real Networks.  Jason and Russ met at the last FB Dev. Garage back in 2007. Despite this fact, 🙂 Russ agreed to talk at the garage before hopping on a plane to London to speak at another conference.

Russ talked about the Economic approach to social game design and shared some of the things he learned while building Backstage.  For starters, Russ noted that Backstage was not in the game building business but rather the money making business. In short, Backstage builds virtual economies. Russ has learned first hand that people will pay real money for virtual goods if they are 1) coveted, 2) can be used by owner at free will and 3) can be exchanged.

J.Joly – dimeRocker
If you have met J. and the dimeRocker team, you already know that they are very proud of their company and are pretty excited about their latest product, the dimeRocker Arcade.  J. and Wolfgang from dimeRocker demoed how game developers could use Arcade to quickly deploy their games on Facebook in less than one hour.  The dimeRocker arcade supports Unity, Flash and includes leaderboards, achievements and monetization.  As an example, J. explained that the app TopBar used Arcade to deploy to Facebook about one week ago and jumped from 4000 to 160,000 users.  Attendee Josh Nilson tweeted “@dimerocker arcade looks great indies and devs should take a look #fbdevyvr”  dimeRocker is a developer driven company, so I am sure they would love your feedback once you take Arcade for a spin.

Brad, Lyal, J.Joly & Andrew of dimeRocker

Paul Prescod, CTO – Ayogo Games
Have you ever tried to build a house on sand?  Well, that’s exactly how Paul feels about building and deploying apps on Facebook.  Paul explained that Facebook likes to break things and is clearly not the most stable platform as FB likes to deploy at least once per week.   But rather than jumping ship or pulling your hair out in frustration, Paul encouraged developers to be Nimble, and deploy in an a

utomated fashion.  He stressed that you have to be on call 24/7 to be prepared when FB breaks things.  Paul has also learned that FB’s documentation is not always right and their product roadmap is not nearly on track.  Therefore, developers should build based on the FB plan as it stands today – not 6 months from now.  And if all else fails – just copy Zynga.

There were definitely a lot of heads nodding and laughs throughout Paul’s presentation.

Pizza Break
After Paul’s talk, everyone beelined to the main lounge to nosh on some pizza, a beer and network for a bit at District 319.

Mike Vernal – Director of Engineering for Facebook Platform
We were thrilled that Mike took the time out of his crazy busy schedule to come to Vancouver and personally share some updates about the FB platform, answer questions and connect with local developers.  Mike even included his cell phone on the big screen, which surprised many including @rootsmith who tweeted: “Wow, dude from facebook just posted his cell #. Crazy! #fbdevyvr”  It was a bold move but shows that Mike is interested in hearing from you.

Mike discussed everything from how the Like button has driven higher conversion rates to how their research has shown that users are drawn to people’s “faces” first.  With more than 200M people using their mobile phone to access Facebook every month, Mike said that “Mobile is really going nuts for us right now…” and that they want to be integrated on all platforms.

Mike Vernal, Elmer Sotto from FB Toronto and Jason Bailey from Super Rewards

Parveen Kaler – Smartful Studios
Out of all the talks, Parveen was the only one, who pulled up some scary code on the big screen while smiling and saying, “This will give PHP devs a heart attack.”  Parveen could have easily talked for 30 minutes about IOS/SDK but cut his talk down to 10 minutes because we were running over schedule.

Parveen Kaler and Tom from Compass Engine

Jason Bailey – Founder of SuperRewards (acquired by AdKnowledge)
If there is anyone in town, who understands how to make money on Facebook – it’s Jason but rather than give his presentation on Super Rewards, he decided to leave more room for networking, beer and leftover pizza.

Many thanks to Jason for being the MC and helping connect me with Russ and others, to Mike Vernal for flying up, to Dennis Pilarinos from Microsoft, Elmer Sotto from FB Toronto and to all of the great speakers, who carved out some time to share their experiences and lessons with the rest of us!

Pics from last night can be found here.  Please tag yourself and share with others.

Boris Mann also posted more about his Lean Dev Discussion at FB Garage YVR here.

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