I got a message from a colleague in the Netherlands Thursday lunchtime asking if I could pop round to his Amsterdam HQ to troubleshoot a technical issue that came up. I said couldn’t because I was attending the 6th LeWeb in Paris. He retorted that since the Internet is no longer an experiment, why was there a need for a conference about it. Surely 5 conferences was enough? It sounded to him like holding a conference about electricity and inviting those who use 220 volts to come to share their experiences.
In fact LeWeb isn’t about the web itself. It’s about people using the web as a distribution tool for a great idea. Some of the ideas presented are purely to make money and, to me at least, seemed to be minute refinements in on-line marketing schemes or simply more efficient ways to sell something - increasingly that means applications for the mobile.
By far the most interesting of the 2300 participants were those who came to share content or research concepts. I spent most of Wednesday looking at the 12 start-ups that pitched for 5 minutes each and then took questions from the audience. Some of the best ideas had the rawest of presentations, and I agree with the judges that LeWeb could offer those selected a pre-pitch coaching. Techcrunch seems to do that in the States. But they didn’t seem to have tried it when asked to organize something similar in Paris. Especially because many people are not pitching in their first language, making a concise convincing elevator pitch needs more preparation than we saw.
I personally found the ideas showed by Wordy.com, Hyperwords.net and Mendeley.com to be those with the biggest potential. They didn’t have the slickest presentations, but they did have the better ideas. Thought the keynotes by Jack Dorsey (www.squareup.com) and social media researcher Danah Boyd (www.danah.org) were the strongest. The presentation by Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was passionate as well as thought provoking - she announced plans to raise awareness for the plight of kids education during the 2010 World Cup. http://www.join1goal.org/ . Rania is truly a connected queen.
I saw several broadcasters wandering around, but only two international broadcasters - CNN, Deutsche Welle and France24. DW was recruiting bloggers for its Best of Blogs award scheme 2010.
Gary Vaynerchuk made a second appearance at LeWeb, and as usual shared his passion for people and building a business in the 21st century. I really like the way Gary is authentic about what he believes in and enjoys working hard. He also asked the organisers to consider more interaction and less panels/keynote presentations.