Always New Mistakes

December 16, 2009

Why do we need things like LeWeb?

Filed under: entrepreneur — Tags: , — Alex Barrera @ 12:34 am

This post appeared verbatim as a guest post on the LeWeb blog.

Being an entrepreneur you soon learn that people like us are rare. It’s hard to find them among the usual population, specially cause we account for a very small percentage of it. Nevertheless, this percentage of entrepreneurs slightly varies from country to country. US for example has a very high percentage of entrepreneurs if you compare it with my home country Spain, who has close to none.

Because it’s hard to find us, we tend to move around a great deal, or at least we try. In the US though, this concept of moving around is something natural. Most Americans move at least 3 times among different cities and many professionals go back and forth between both coasts regularly. For most of them, this is something, not only natural, but essential. It’s something we, in Europe, aren’t used at all. Most Europeans only travel either during Holidays or for a business trip. Even in those cases, most of us bring our country culture with us. That is, there are still very real frontiers in peoples minds across Europe, even though from multiple angles (law, economy, etc.), Europe is finally one. Still, old habits die hard.

In my experience, most cases of cultural blindness are prompt from a lack of travelling. Even though most EU countries are very close (much closer than San Francisco from New York City for example), people see travelling there like an ordeal, like something close to an adventure.

So, why are things like LeWeb so important? Basically, LeWeb brings together not only Europeans, but plenty of other people from other countries like the US, China, Argentina, etc. During 2 days you can encounter with people from hundreds of different countries, people who share, in most cases, your same interests. But this is nothing new, international conferences have existed for ages. What it’s new for me is that now, thanks to plenty of social media tools, we are able to maintain those worldwide connections alive, even years after the conference took place. What I’m seeing is a convergence of entrepreneurs in Europe. I feel myself close to my European peers now, than what I felt 3 years ago.

Finally, the Internet is breaking the cultural barriers and history heritage that for so long has separated people in Europe. Finally, different cultures are working together to keep those links alive. Finally, we are starting to be one, and not many.

For all that, for that incredible experience, for enabling Europeans spread their love all over the world, thank you LeWeb, thank you Loic and Geraldine and thank you all, citizens of the world, that by coming together are enabling an incredible world flattening experience.

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December 19, 2008

LeWeb and Paris

Filed under: entrepreneur — Tags: , , , , , , — Alex Barrera @ 1:24 pm

Last week I had the change to attend, for the first time, to LeWeb conference in Paris. LeWeb, organized by French entrepreneur Loïc Le Meur and his wife Geraldine, has become one of the most important Web conferences in Europe in past years.

This is the second time I attend a European conference, being FOWA @ London, the previous one and I have to confess that the feeling was different this time. When I went to FOWA I was impressed. There were some amazing keynotes and I got to know plenty of people. It really gave me a taste of what was out there in terms of tech startups. It actually put my feet on the ground and reset many of my expectations with my own tech startup.

LeWeb was quite different, the keynotes where stellar, even more that the ones at FOWA, nevertheless, my experience was distinct. A year has passed, I’ve met plenty of new friends, most of them working in tech startups and my own perception of the tech startup world is much more advanced now that my company is starting to operate with beta users. As a side note, it’s also true that once you are in this particular industry, you start to demystify many of the key players an so, talks that a while back seemed amazing to me, no longer have that effect.

So, this time, it wasn’t about getting a grasp of the market, but it was more about getting in contact with possible clients and partners. To that extend I succeeded in meeting very interesting persons and had an amazing time hanging with many European startups.

leweb081

The keynotes were different from the ones at FOWA. The ones at FOWA had, in general, a high degree of technical content. The ones at LeWeb where much more business oriented and some of them where very inspiring. All in all, I think I like the LeWeb formula the most. Being a tech geek as I am, there is a problem with tech keynotes. Working all day as a developer, you really don’t want to listen to more developers talking about the same stuff you do at work. On the other side, some of them that might seem like amazing talks, become CEOs and CTOs PR talks. I don’t really get it, if you are doing a tech talk, give it, but don’t put a cool title for your keynote and then talk about what your company does and how well are you growing.

In contrast, LeWeb had very refreshing talks that touched very dear subjects to me, inspiration, neuroscience and music. Funny enough the keynotes I liked the most were the ones that had nothing to do with technology or big tech companies. The most amazing presentations, in my humble opinion, were these ones (in no particular order):

  • David Weinberger
  • Itay Talgam, Conductor
  • Linda Avey, Co-Founder, 23AndMe, Inc.
  • Helen Fisher, Visiting Research Professor, Rutgers University
  • Paulo Coelho, Author
  • Introduction with Morten Lund – Chief Ideologist, Lund XY Global Ventures
  • Robin Good, New Media Innovator, Explorer, Independent Publisher,
Master New Media
  • Chris Anderson – Curator, TED
  • Joichi Ito, CEO, Creative Commons

I specially loved Chris Anderson’s talk which nearly got me crying. I also had the joy of talking with him for a few seconds after his talk (thank you Luis Rull for pushing me to approach him) and managed to give him my business card, which, of course, he won’t read. But anyway, it made me immensely happy to talk with him as it’s one of the persons I have a deep respect for. You can find most of the keynotes in ustream, so check some of them out, they are worth it.

Finally and as a side note, I had the impression the organization was, ironicaly, quite disorganized, which lead to a chain of problems which bugged everyone during the conference. You could reduce them to cold, lack of food and lack of Wifi. Three things which are indispensable in any conference and all of them failed the first day. I hope next year the organization pulls their act together and get those issues fixed as the rest of the conference was a blast.

I’ll be going to the Lift Conference in February 2009 with my friends from Sandbox Network, so if you plan to attend don’t hesitate on dropping me an email.

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