LONDON Thursday 10th Jan 2008 – A somewhat belated post (it got left in my WordPress drafts folder!) on WES08 in London earlier this month. The event was interesting and as always at the events where there are a mix of disciplines I met some interesting people. However, my main criticism would be that the event actually tried to spread its net too far.
The main thrust of the event seemed to be regarding social entrepreneurship, but the panel debates didn’t necessarily reflect this. The content or quality of a conference panel is, more often than not, a direct consequence of how good or bad the moderator is. I’m frequently suprised how many moderators quite simply dont moderate. The topic drifts or the answers from panelists are long winded. While it can be good to let the room guide the debate, ultimately the people attended that conference track because they were interested in the subject of that specific panel; the moderator should keep it focused on that subject.
So in this respect, the panels were interesting – because we discussed UK/US funding differences, growing teams, what drives growth, allocation of equity to motivate staff and numerous things around these topics. They were a few steps away from the titles of the sessions; and little to do with, specifically, social entrepreneurship.
I was confused as to the overall direction of the conference, as were some of the entrepreneurs and VCs who attended. One drunk -unnamed- VC described it as “a waste of f***ing time” over the dinner table. Not that I was wholly surprised; social entrepreneurship would seem the least compatible in culture with the morals of Venture Capital .
That said, of Karan Bilimoria’s, founder of Cobra beers, gave a fantastic Keynote -really cant recommend him enough- at the end of the first day and John Bird (Big Issue founder) gave a rousing and typically lively speech after Dinner, the summary of which was that after we have all finished looking “outside the box” we should not forget to take that knowledge and “get back in the box” to help everyone else who doesn’t lead such a dynamic life.