Last week, one of the biggest European tech conferences took place in Paris: LeWeb was celebrating its 10th anniversary. With the motto “The next 10 years in tech”, they really wanted to create something big. Besides big influencers of the tech and internet industry as Guy Kawasaki, Tony Faddell from Nest Labs, Brian Solis from Altimeter, David Marcus from Paypal and Gary Vaynerchuk, Arnaud Montebourg, French minister for Industry and Growth, and Fleur Pellerin, French Minister for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Innovation and the Digital Economy, attended.
LeWeb promised a lot but could only live up to it partly. Instead of really discussing the trends of the next ten years, already known topics as the internet of things, health care and 3D printing were discussed, always repeating the importance of mobile strategies,
For me personally, Gary Vaynerchuk and Nick D’Aloisio were the real highlights of the official program. Vaynerchuk who created with Wine Library TV a successful video podcast about wine and is now running VaynerMedia with 300 employees didn’t hesitate to discuss a few important things in his direct and unconventional manner: He condemned the current trend of wannabe-entrepreneurs who are trying to do something “cool” but shy away from the slightest obstacle and return to their corporate jobs. One should be aware that “for one Instagram, there are five millions Instashits” out there. Founding and growing a company is a really hard job, not a walk in the park. Additionally, Vaynerchuk made clear that in good marketing, it is not about how many impressions you get with your website but how many attention you get from your potential customers. A paying forward culture is a must as you will only be successful if you give first before you ask for something. You can already watch the whole talk online.
Nick D’Aloisio, 18-years-old founder of Summly which was acquired by Yahoo! last year and integrated in their product portfolio, impressed with his astuteness and his modesty. D’Aloisio now works as a product manager for Summly at Yahoo! while preparing his A-level exams. Nevertheless, he is already planning to create more companies, saying that we should put more emphasis on entrepreneurial education and that drive and determination are the core characteristics of a successful entrepreneur. By watching him, you can see that he definitely brings these qualities to the table. This really great interview is already online as well.
Having said that, the hours long waiting line out in the cold at the event’s registration was disappointing as well as the realization of this year’s Startup Competition. Far away from the main plenary, the startups pitched in front of a jury and a handful of people in the audience. In the finals, three startups with completely different products were pitching: Flinja from the US is offering a platform where students get access to freelance projects to gain first professional experience. SocialSafe from the UK are enabling users to control, download and create a complete report of their social media activities. IntelClinic from Poland developed a sleeping mask which is allowing to sleep less but more efficiently by monitoring brain waves. The latter eventually won the competition. Congratulations to the team around Kamil Adamczyk!
Besides that, the women panel around LeWeb co-founder Géraldine LeMeur created a negative buzz amongst a lot of attendees: At the beginning, the host Paul Papadimitrou couldn’t resist to mention that he was really glad that all of the four women participating at the panel were pretty. After that, it couldn’t get much worse. The Twittersphere exploded around the topic of women in tech but Papadimitrou reacted surprisingly open to the criticism. Unfortunately, LeWeb missed to set a positive example on this topic. There were remarkable few female speakers present at the event.
Over all, LeWeb is an event where the tech establishment meets which is mainly interesting if you want to renew existing contacts. Getting in contact with new people on the spot was quite difficult. On the other hand, the evening parties – The Other Night organized by Rude Baguette and The Family as well as the official LeWeb party – were fun with great people coming together. You should especially watch out for Robin Wauters’ shoulder boogie next time you see him around at a conference’s after party ;]