It was a hectic, but fun and informative two days at entrepreneur Loic Lemeur’s LeWeb conference for high tech startups in Paris earlier this month. I was looking for exposure to new ideas and activities, and mostly achieve that. That’s me at the lower right of the picture. For those not there, Ustream has posted videos of most of the presentations.
While the focus was supposed to be on the European tech scene, it often felt like a gathering transplanted tree and branch from San Francisco. The inside jokes, the focus on venture capital gossip, even the music felt very Californian. The smug, “we’re masters of the Tech universe” attitude was sometimes a bit hard to take.
Given Lemeur’s bi-continental focus (a Frenchman living in the Bay Area) and the influence that the US has on the tech industry worldwide that’s to be expected somewhat. However, I wasn’t sure why some of the companies presenting there, even in the startup competition were even there since they had no discernible European connection.
The main hall speakers were generally well chosen, even if some could probably develop a new story. I am not a habitué of these conferences, but I had heard several of these messages before. It was very clear that some of the speakers who had achieved great things had real ideas they were passionate about,which lead directly to their success. Others just seemed to have a reasonably good idea once, and were lucky enough to be where lightning hit, judging by what they had to say here.
Some speakers clearly understood what people were coming to the event for. Ryan Sarver from Twitter made several important announcements about new service offerings. Others, like Ethan Beard from Facebook read from a prepared speech that told the audience basically what Facebook is and why it was so great, definitely not what anyone in the room needed to hear.
I tried to talk to or hear as many startups as I could, either on the show floor or in the competition. There seemed to be four main themes among the new companies’ products.
- Helping people organize their web experience and online resources (Mendeley, Symbaloo, Wikio, Allmyapps)
- Cloud support services (Superfeedr, Joilcloud, Cloudsplit
- Using the social grid in different ways (Kukunu, Friendbinder, Stribe the competition winner)
- Ecommerce (Shutl, Storific, Sokoz)
The star of the event was Queen Rania of Jordan, who gave an impassioned and clued in speech on how the Web can be used to improve how people live and calling on the entrepreneurs to support her main charity programme.