The Group Stage

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MEXICO 1986. The World Cup. An eight-year-old boy falls in love. It all begins with an old football sticker album and soon transforms into memorable nights sat in front of a TV screen with my old man, watching some of the best players the world had ever seen. Football became my first love. A dream was born during those unforgettable summer days of Lineker and Maradona: to go to the World Cup.Another young dreamer, Mark Zuckerberg, once had a simple vision: to help his student friends to connect. Since then, he has relentlessly pursued value – and not just stock value. Zuckerberg understands perfectly well that his success, and that of Facebook, depends on providing constant added value for its users. At the outset, this value was expressed through the connection between people; strengthening existing relationships and creating new ones. Thereafter, Facebook became a source for news – not merely global affairs, but updates from people who are close to us in one way or another. However, our lives soon become inundated with excessive information, and Facebook is no longer the only culprit.The next battlefield will not be over connections or news. Following years in which Facebook tried to compete with the intimidating giant, Google, it understood that the real war is not over the search engine itself. The actual contest is over the ability to provide value to the lives of ordinary people and solve everyday problems. When the penny finally dropped, Facebook began to search ways that, it too, could help us with our day-to-day lives.When my generation joined Mamazone and Papazone (popular Israeli parenting groups), it is not clear that we saw it coming. After all, we were only looking for an escape from the mundanity of our daily lives and to get a peek into the day-to-day existence of our peer group.

 However, we gradually found ourselves identifying with it. The first benefit we gained was a pure relief. We are not alone.After that, came the sense of genuine happiness from others and then, suddenly, we felt confident enough in ourselves to ask for a little bit of help from friends that we had never even met. If you take a moment to look back, it’s reasonable to assume that in the past year, most of what you got out of from Facebook was via a group.Around four months ago, I met David, a nice guy who works out with me at the gym. We started chatting and it turned out that David was going to realize my dream – this coming summer he would be flying to Russia for the World Cup. I instantly told David that despite numerous repeated attempts to purchase tickets for the games, either by ballot or ‘first come first served’, I hadn’t had any luck. That very evening, David invited me to a Facebook group with the surprisingly creative name “World Cup 2018 in Russia”. On the eve of Israel’s 70th Independence Day, a notification suddenly popped up on the group. One of the members shared with us that the celebratory spirit of independence had put him in a good mood. More importantly, my joyful virtual friend and soon to become the favorite person on the planet, revealed that he had got himself to the front of the online queue to purchase World Cup tickets and he was willing to buy for anyone from the group who was interested. It sounded too good to be true. Nevertheless, I decided to try my luck.

A mere ten minutes later, the guy sent me a screenshot of the tickets he had just bought for me – for the exact two games that I wanted to go. He didn’t even know me and I didn’t know him, and yet, he selflessly swiped his credit card to the tune of more than $1000 and, in doing so, enable me to finally swipe right on a 32-year-old dream.

So, the start-up that fulfills our dreams is yet to be invented. Who knows, maybe one day this will happen too. But, somewhere in Menlo Park, a kid who made it big time understood that almost every component of your platform is subject to competition, apart from the inherent value in helping people to realize their dreams.

The writer is an expert in digital marketing & strategy, consultant for leading brands and lecturer at companies and academic institutions. 

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