Le Web Enters Puberty

With a funny mix of Frenchman in suits, Brits in jeans, Valley types in slacks and everything inbetween, Le Web has grown and grown since 2005. Like all things that grow it is changing and improving, along with a few teething troubles, as it finds its identity.


I was all psyched up to write a quick blog about the pros and cons of #LeWeb 2009; encouraged by @cathybrooks who righty reminded me that I must blog about it otherwise it wont actually improve. The hardcore blog community have pretty much covered it off (as if they ever weren’t going to).

NB: One of the best overviews I’ve read is David Sparks Cool / Not-So Cool Le Web @dspark who was one of the Travelling Geeks, over again from the U.S, alongside some European colleauges such as the ever cheerful @robinwauters who since I met him a couple of years ago when he first started Plugg, has become an omnipresent feature on the European tech scene- good thing too.

Overpaid, Over-Sexed and Over Here

The frequent visits from the U.S. by the travelling geeks during 2009, alongside @olibarrett ‘s Web Mission (which I was part of in its first year in 2008 and which has since spawned Digital Mission and others) is really helping bridge the digital atlantic. Europes and America’s Internet interactions are a spaghetti junction of crossover (and even more so between UK and America).

There is still no replacement for human interaction though – the relationships made through international attendance at Le Web and other outreach “missions” is vital for the West Coast to see outside it’s own bubble and critical to Europe becoming less risk averse. Might sound obvious, but I’ve never seen this many U.S. geeks, investors, angels and net Founders in Europe so regularly- let me know if I’m wrong!

It is helping Europe be able to build the biggest online and mobile success stories of the next decade. Whenever I mention we’re not building enough succesful start-ups, someone shouts “What about Skype!” .  Well, when the majority of you can reel off 10 similar successes (as most people can for U.S. internet successes) then I’ll pipe down.

This Europe versus USA debate has -as ever- been raging on, a subject which I’ll post on next week – meanwhile the wonderfully British humoured @paulcarr ran a European Gang panel (link to videos) which did what it was intended to do: create debate. Both Mike Butcher and Brent Hoberman gave good contributions.

View of the main hall Le Web 09

Main hall at Le Web 09 (Photo credit: @rougefrog)

Back to Le Web. Rummble (my company) had a presence with Microsoft in their BizSpark lounge alongside Huddle, WAYN and companies from the U.S. such as Xobni. There were start-up sessions, a main room, a side room and appropriate French finger food; but I’ll round off with a quick fire list of the good and the bad, just incase @loic or @geraldine bump into this post…


  • WiFi
    Seriously, this must be the ONLY European conference to have got this so right all year. Fast, free and worked anywhere in the building. Congrats.
  • Continous, free, streaming of event
    Available at http://www.leweb.net streaming to the world. Brilliant.
  • PR
    LeWeb is now officially a BIG event of the year in the tech sector worldwide. Arguable, almost over-hyped as it has too much to live up to now…well, better than under-hyped, right? 😉
  • Badges
    Double sided badges, ‘nuff said.
  • Enthusiasm
    Loic and his possie are always enthusiastic and despite his scuttling off to the goldmines of the west coast (and why not?) running Le Web, while I’m sure profitable, can only be great for Europe.

il était bon

  • Food. Although no plates and a toothpick to stab jambon is a little tiresome. I didn’t mind eating with my fingers but I hear some grumbles. 2007 the food was #awesome and people complained it was too good..so I guess you cant win.
  • Screens. Big film on screens, good sound system, big room and generally enough seats.
  • Timing. Things ran pretty much to time and there was enough time to network too.

devons faire mieux

(must do better)

  • Audience Q&A.
    Simply was not enough, if any, on the main conference stage. A room full of bright tech savvy people who’ve paid lots of money to be there – atleast 50% of the stage time should be based on audience input IMHO.
  • Sponsored speeches.
    I dont care if someone gets stage time for sponsoring, but ffs say something of consequence of ensure the speaker knows how to speak. The first day sessions after Jack were not only boring but like watching an upmarket shopping channel but without the energy. Awful.
  • Wasted screen time.
    Lunchtime had a cycling animation. Why not have 2 minute pitches of all the start-ups playing which didn’t make it into the competition final? .. just one use for the screen time and captive audience sat there than some silly cartoon.
  • Not enough Euro-Startup coverage.
    There are TONS of European start-ups desperate to get coverage. You could ram them in Techcrunch50 style in a row of pods and make it free for them to come.
  • Cost.
    Speaking of startups, it is expensive. I spotted a 750 euro ticket (750!!!) a couple of weeks before, for start-ups. I wasnt sure if I could go so had to wait, then luckily managed to get a discount to 895 euros; but that is a LOT of money. It is the most I’ve paid for any conference and I’m not sure with hindsight it will be worth it. We’ll see. Of course, these things cost a lot of money to hold and Geraldine is not a charity – Le Web is a business. I’d just like to see more imaginative discounts for start-ups. Sure, we’re a “we want everything free” bunch are we not … weren’t you when you ran a start up?

I have to thank @loic and Microsoft personally for arranging me a last minute ticket when Microsoft invited me to take BizSpark space (although before you all email Loic next year for a freebee, I was a paid up attendee – see above). BTW, start-ups reading – apply for BizSpark as this sort of support is just one of many benefits…

So onward next year to Le Web 2010.  Big name speakers bring the press and get coverage; but content must maintain its quality. Innovation comes from the grass roots and I think Europe would do well to better showcase it’s star up talent to the main audience more boldly.

Think about it: If you’re a Silicon Valley citizen and you’re travelling all the way to Europe, you want to learn and see what you dont back in the bubble. Be bold Europe—let’s showcase our own talent and what WE believe the next big brands are—it’s great to bring Jack (and his very innovative new start-up Square) to a European audience, but the majority should be the names of the European space, not a busmans holiday for the U.S. bloggers. We need their attention, indeed we want their contribution- but in the context of our own digital leaders blasting a path on stage, imho.

Photo of Andrew J Scott and Andy McCloughin from Huddle

Catching up with the internet superhighway opposite @bandrew, Founder of Huddle (Photo Credit: http://rougefrog.com/ )

Et enfin ..

Most importantly and what I missed most – let the audience contribute. You have a room of 500+ CEOs, though leaders and entrepreneurs at any one time, all listening to the questions of 1 person to the verbal prose of 2 or 3. 500 people will come up with better questions than any one person could…and anyway, we paid. It is our questions we want answered.  EVERY session should have 30-50% of it’s time Q&A. Keeps people awake, increases chance of original content, questions and answers. Let’s democratise Le Web just a little bit more….in real-time 😉

So much for not writing a full blog post. See you there next year.


2 thoughts on “Le Web Enters Puberty

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