I had the wonderful pleasure not only to be a media partner, but to speak at Web2Day in Nantes last week, and the first thing I’d like to say is that, once again, Nantes punches above its weight class. This two-day event featured startups from all over France, speakers from all backgrounds, and they even got the recently sworn-in Minister of Digital Economy Fleur Pellerin to stop by to give the opening speech – we still haven’t gotten an interview with her and we’ve been emailing her since before the primary elections!
In addition to Fleur Pellerin stopping by and reminding us that she supports startups and ‘we’re the future’ and ‘go technology,’ I was impressed to get to meet Deborah Magid, who is the Director of the IBM VC Group, an entity that has $22 Billion under management. While the group mostly serves as an LP, investing in VC firms themselves, Deborah came out, not to Paris, but to Nantes, France for a two-day conference to be on the jury panel of a startup contest.
Quentin Adam – I’m 63% sure he owns Nantes
I was happy to run into a friend that I have run into in a different city every time since I’ve met him, including once in San Francisco during GDC this past March. Quentin Adam runs Clevercloud, a French cloud startup that we’ll talk a bit more about later in the week. He also runs Checkspear, a geolocalized version of Pokemon for your smartphone that allows you to actually walk back and forth through the high-brush looking for wild monsters to catch. In addition, during Web2Day, he brought me over to CompanyCampus, a new private self-incubator that he just opened which has a heavy community focus where startups mentor each other in addition to working in a shared space. While some may think that running three projects at once is too many, I’m likely to give Quentin the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. He introduced me to Deborah, whom he had invited from San Francisco, as well as Simon Robic, a well-known journalist who runs EntrepreNantes.
Cedric Giorgi’s panel on Collaborative Consumption
By far the best talk during the event was Food Tech entrepreneur Cedric Giorgi’s talk/panel on Collaborative Consumption. To begin with, Giorgi took the stage and gave a 15 minute talk about FoodTech, during which he made reference to a little under 100 different FoodTech startups, American, French, and otherwise. He mentioned some French stars, like Restopolitan, Super Marmite, and Marmiton – I’m waiting for him to post his slides with notes so that I can start contacting Food Tech startups for interviews. A memorable quote came at the end of his speech, when he wrapped up his talk, saying that any innovation in food & tech must remember three things: 1) Visuals are essential 2) Mobile is essential and 3) Offline interaction must always be the final goal.
After his talk, Frederic Mazzella, CEO of ridesharing service BlaBlaCar, took the stage for 15 minutes and gave some cool updates about BlaBlaCar – including their name-changing from CoVoiturage/Comuto to BlaBlaCar. The name, Mazzella explains, comes from the fact that when drivers announce the trips they’ll make, they have to describe their car as a “Bla” “BlaBla” or “BlaBlaBla” car depending on what level of talking they prefer among passengers – you know, like “Oh, this car? Is a BlaBlaCar.” He boasted about their imminent 2 Million user count, which will arrive in the next two months, about their recent entrance into their fifth country, Belgium (the UK, France, Spain, and Italy are the others). Lastly, he showed an interesting time-lapse video, which shows how, because drivers post their planned trips on BlaBlaCar, the site can actually predict traffic levels – they used a holiday weekend, like L’Ascension, as an example in the video – it’s pretty cool!
After Frederic finished, Cedric took the stage again and moderated a panel with four experts in collaborative consumption. Mathieu Le Roux, a partner at IDInvest, spoke about the necessity for startups doing C2C work to find a way to monetize the transactions/interactions between users in order for VCs to be interested. Marion Carrette, founder and CEO of Zilok.com, a C2C lending site for physical goods, spoke about her company’s recent launch of Zilok Auto, a site devoted entirely to lending cars. I’m sure this news didn’t sit well with fellow panel member Paulin Dementhon, founder of VoiltureLib, a site which proposes the exact same service, who also had much to say about the evolution of Collaborative Consumption in the past few years. The panel also featured Maxime Leroy of OuiShare, a community oriented around the promotion of collaborative consumption. The panel brought up some great questions about the future of CC and about the expansion from sharing cars to sharing everything.
Going from best in Nantes to best in France
I would like to first give some credit to the Web2Day organization team – especially Adrien and Louisa from Atlantic 2.0, who were running around like mad for the two days keeping everything running. That being said, I think the bar needs to and will be set a little higher for next year’s event in terms of how the event ‘animateurs’ handle things. Several times I had organizers and volunteers interrupting conversations to tell me about DJ art shows going on in the room, and moderators telling people in one room to go to the other room for another talk before someone’s talk started – this will be the only condescending sentence in this article: it felt like a conference in the province. Notably, I was a bit disappointed to see that Cedric’s panel was cut short by 15 minutes, just to keep schedule – schedules run over in conferences, that’s just a fact. Also, the last minute scheduling of Fleur Pellerin meant that they didn’t bother announcing the talk I gave right after she arrived – but it’s not like the talk I gave was that great anyway.
But seriously: Nantes, people. They have set the bar high for two-day events, one with which Paris cannot compete. Before you jump to tweet LeWeb LeWeb LeWeb, remember: this event cost 100 euros. One Hundred Euros. I ran into students from Startup Weekend Nantes, unfunded founders, funded founders, press from FrenchWeb and more, the mayor of Nantes, international attendees – Paris needs to step its game up with an event that everyone can afford, which everyone wants to go to.
Congratulations are in order, of course, to Babble Planet and JoliTV, who won first & second place in the Startup Competition at Web2Day!