Wondering what’s going to happen at LeWeb? Here, we’ll tell you.

Dec 5, 2011
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Oh yes, it is finally the most wonderful time of the year. The 8th edition of Europe’s most hyped tech event, LeWeb – which has grown from some 250 participants in 2004 to over 3,000 attendees this year – will be taking place this week in the number-one tourist destination in the world: Paris. Silicon Valley’s tech titans will finally succumb to a few painful days in a city with a bit of history, culture and good-quality coffee, where they will share their insights with their biggest undercover fans: European entrepreneurs. And if we can base this year’s performance on anything from the past, then we’re definitely in for a real treat. Here are some predictions about what will happen at this year’s LeWeb event…

A word from Scoble.

Unsurprisingly, I have found very few people that have attended every single LeWeb event. Aside from Loic Le Meur himself, SoftTech investor Jeff Clavier and entrepreneur-turned-business angel, Rodrigo Sepulveda Schulz are the two only other people I know who have been to all the events. Robert Scoble has also been a participant since the early days. While I don’t know whether or not he was an attendee or a speaker in 2004, he was a keynote speaker in 2005. But recently, what has really gotten Robert noticed at LeWeb (at least within the French ecosystem) is his strong statements towards French startups. In 2009, it was Deezer’s French twitter account that he ridiculed for not being in English (despite several million users) and last year, it was Windows app store Allmyapps who got flack for making a Windows-based product. You can read what Allmyapp’s CEO had to say about their exchange here. So if this year is anything like what we’ve seen in the past, we may as well expect “Robert *Darth* Scoble” (as he’s know to Allmyapps) to get into a squabble with another, unsuspecting French startup.

Michael Arrington will turn a bit, well, French.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFeDHeJnx4g]

(Still my favorite Michael moment…*sigh*)

I’m sure Michael Arrington would *love* to hear this. Actually, this was a comment made to me by numerous French entrepreneurs last year. After Michael’s really terrific on-stage interviews (as he is one of the few to really hammer an answer out of the person he’s interviewing), people would come up to me and say “you know, I know Michael Arrington hates the French, but he is the most French American person I have ever seen.” I can’t say that I disagree. Michael isn’t known to bother with your typical American-style pleasantries and says it like it is. He hardly shies away from a bit of controversy – but he’ll behave, but only enough to be invited back next year (remember 2008?). And he openly criticizes the French Administration for some of its ridiculous and poorly executed ideas and strategies, along with the rest of the country. So I don’t think that it would be unreasonable to expect Michael Arrington’s “Frenchness” to live up to expectations this year.

Oh yeah, Airbnb is hiring. In Europe.

Aside from that little fiasco they suffered in June, Airbnb has managed to stay on top of its game. Even with numerous European clones, like Wimdu and One Fine Stay, the Ashton Kutcher-backed startup is beefing up its team to conquer the world and take couch-surfing to the next level (I’m sure the French hotel industry will strike back but not just yet). Anyhow, Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky is part of this year’s high-profile speaker line-up and he’ll probably be sure to mention Airbnb’s European development – and that their offices are hiring. Majorly.

 Karl Lagerfeld will talk about technology in an old fashioned type of way – in sunglasses and a tie.

Actually, this is one guy that I’m curious to see speak. I have no idea what on earth he could possibly say about tech. But I will give the “terrible underachiever” (as his Twitter bio reads) a bit of credit for having a rather stellar online presence. Then again, aren’t we talking about the man who said he would be launching a book perfume earlier this year to bring back the scent of the pre-Kindle days. Huh? OK, I guess Karl is one of the few speakers I really can’t make a prediction about.

Sean Parker will party like it’s 1999.

Calm down, I’m joking. Actually, Sean is one of the people I am looking forward to seeing the most. And no, it’s not just the lingering after effect of the Social Network movie (actually, maybe it’s from that Vanity Fair article that blew my mind). Regardless of what Sean likes to do in his spare time (including hanging with Snoop?), he’s been at the forefront of several of our generation’s most powerful internet innovations. As one of the big names behind Peter Thiel’s Founder’s Fund, I’m hoping Sean will tell us what it’s like to work with Zuck, proudly display his undying love for Napster’s reincarnation Spotify – and potentially live up to his less-professional reputation as well).

Photo: Huffington Post.

Mais oui! Everyone will be a winner.

I definitely wasn’t the only one that found last year’s startup awards a little anti-climactic. I mean, it was pretty hard not to given that all 3 finalists were made winners in their own respective categories. We’ve already talked about some of the different trends we can see just by looking at the finalist pool (yes, there is a startup from Iceland, calm down Silicon Valley). Last year, there were 5 French startups selected and 1 Swiss. This year, LeWeb has added an additional French team to the list. I’m thinking that makes the odds of having at least one French finalist pretty good, although I’m not sure if we’ll see a pitch that will live up to the performance done by Super-Marmite last year. And yes, this years judging panel for the finalists includes almost the same French entrepreneur line-up as last year (which I must say was very entertaining). Fortunately this year, we’ve got the people’s choice award to look forward to in addition to the rest.

It will not snow in French Siberia.

For anyone who attended last year’s event, yes, LeWeb is not held underneath the Eiffel Tower near the Parisian desert but in fact in French Siberia in the north of Paris. Snow definitely came as a bit of a surprise to some of the t-shirt loving Californians last year (myself included!) and made for a little bit of an eventful after party on the Champs Elysées. But this year, the weather forecast for French Siberia is cold – but not snow cold. So hopefully none of the geeks will get frostbite.

And then there’s more than the usual suspects.

Aside from Scoble, Arrington & Co., a number of the usual LeWeb suspects will also be present, including Marissa Mayer (Google), Phil Libin (Evernote) and Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang. But there are definitely a number of new faces too. There are definitely numerous French faces to watch for, including Gilles Babinet (serial entrepreneur and investor who now heads the French digital counsel – ironically named CNN), Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet (CEO of acquired PriceMinister and investor with ISAI) and Xaiver Niel (founder of France’s Iliad, co-founder of the incredible active Kima Ventures and the man with the most Twitter followers despite never having tweeted :p). I’m sure we’ll end up having a usual Europe-US showdown (here are my thoughts on the topic) and if we do, listen for these impressive names.

Now that I’ve made several predictions, can you guess who I am most excited about seeing?