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When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his new application developer grant program, fbFund, at TechCrunch40, everyone clapped (including me). I did have some concerns immediately and one of them was right after Mark said, "just email in your application to email@example.com". Immediately my nose twitched and I thought "how will they manage applications via email?" I have dealt with contests and sweeps with millions of entries and couldn’t imagine for a minute the management via email. Then I realized Mark is rich and smart – surely the emails get processed into a system, right?
Just a couple of days later, emails began to go out to the current applicants discussing privacy and conflict which you can read about on my previous discussion. This past weekend, Facebook has called a mulligan on the emails as the application format. Here is the email that went out to fbFund applicants:
Thank you for your inquiry about the fbFund grant program, and for your support of the Facebook Platform. Our goal for this program is to encourage as many developers as possible to write innovative and engaging new applications on top of Facebook Platform. Additionally, we hope to enable an even broader class of developers to become entrepreneurs by giving you the financial resources necessary to pursue a new venture that relies on Facebook Platform.
It has become clear that we will receive proposals which contain similar or even identical ideas. As a result, and in order to protect other developers and us from claims that we or anyone else copied material without the creator’s permission, unless we agree otherwise in writing, we can’t promise that any materials or information you submit here will be kept confidential, or specifically that we or others might not develop similar or identical products or services.
To make sure that everyone understands the conditions of submitting a grant application, we will not review any materials you have sent via email, and any materials you may have sent have been deleted. If you would like to submit an application for an fbFund grant or require more information, please see our website and grant application submission form at http://www.facebook.com/developers/fbfund.php. We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope the online information and submission form will help you develop and structure your proposal. We are accepting applications from around the world.
Again, we are very excited to be offering this program and wish you the best of luck whether or not you are an fbFund grant recipient. We can only give a limited number of grants and not getting one does not mean that we don’t believe in your application nor that it can’t be successful – it simply means that we have a limited amount of resources and weren’t able to give money during this cycle to you. You are welcome to apply as many times as you like as each funding cycle represents a new opportunity to receive a grant.
More information is available at
Thank you for your patience — we apologize for the delay in this response. We’ve seen a tremendous response to fbFund, and look forward to reviewing great proposals.
the fbFund team
I have received two emails from angry app developers who now need to resubmit their info. One I can’t post as there were too many expletives but the other included, "I have not done it _again_… I am not sure if I can be bothered because it looks like they have not got a clue what they are doing and has been handled half arsedly."
I am glad that Facebook called a mulligan quickly and now will handle the application process correctly moving forward. I can only assume that in the 14 days since the initial launch and this new email, they never peeked at any of the applications.
I am still curious as to how they will decide who has the unique idea – time stamp of application? Would also be great to learn about who makes up the judging panel – certainly wouldn’t want to see any sort of favoritism. In fact, if they were smart, they would anonymize the applications and only upon grant does Facebook learn who the developer(s) is/are. Of course this is SV, so I doubt that will happen :)
Earlier this week Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of a new fund for Facebook application developers called fbFund. He said they will give grants to exciting ideas which could provide great opportunities to Facebook application developers. I generally think of a grant as something that doesn’t need to be repaid (as a loan would), but from what I understand they will be looking for some equity should the idea move forward but no initial equity as with a typical VC deal. I sure hope the giddy developer’s do the research and seek counsel before deciding if it’s a good idea. As I said, I have not yet done the research to provide any analysis.
What I found interesting is that Mark basically said you could "email in your ideas". Who uses email to apply for something? How would Facebook keep track of who is first, route the ideas, organize them, etc. I thought to myself. It seems I wasn’t alone in this thinking. Ashkan Karbasfrooshan from Mojo Supreme has put together an excellent analysis of the use of email in this case.
He contacted Facebook and received a reply that included the following (my emphasis):
During this process, however, it has become clear that we will receive proposals which contain similar or even identical ideas. As a result, and in order to protect other developers and us from claims that we or anyone else copied material without the creator’s permission, unless we agree otherwise in writing, we can’t promise that any materials or information you submit here will be kept confidential, or specifically that we or others might not develop similar or identical products or services. Accordingly, we ask that you not submit any materials or information you consider to be confidential or proprietary to this e-mail address.
This said, if you would like us to delete any materials you have just sent us, please send us an e-mail within 48 hours instructing us to do so with an email subject “DELETE”, and we will delete those materials without review by anyone here. If we do not receive instructions to delete your materials within 48 hours, we will rely on that fact as indicating that you wish us to review your materials, with the understanding that we accept no obligations (whether of confidentiality, payment or otherwise) with respect to any materials, information or
ideas included in your submission.
Ashkan wonders if this type of behavior will open Facebook to more litigation down the road. I wonder what type of PR mess this could create and whether there will be a developer backlash should an idea go live from Facebook direct and an app developer claims it was his or her idea. So basically Facebook will now have thousands of ideas submitted to them. What will they do with these ideas? What protections do app developers have in this process?