The Only Thing French About LeWeb '11 Was Its Name…

European StartUp Scene

Last week Loic Le Meur hosted LeWeb for the 7th time on the outskirts of Paris. Silicon Valley bloggers, investors, and entrepreneurs rode in on Uber Carriages, bringing with them French companies, European startups, and fanbois of all shapes and sizes. For three days, croissant-fueled networking and wine-induced pitches filled the air as startups pitched bloggers, VCs and potential customers.
The first day, I listened. The second day, I worked up the courage to start talking to people like Ben Parr and Robert Scoble. The third day…. well, I think Sean Parker acted like we were all feeling that day. Deezer hosted a party in the louvre with The Ting Tings playing live. President Sarkozy and Eric Schmidt became friends, hopefully ending an ancient feud between Google and France. So many things launched that I can’t even keep them straight (did Karl Lagerfield really launch an online-only fashion brand?)

What I thought LeWeb would be…

While I love seeing the Silicon Valley energy invest Paris for a week – believe me, I was PUMPED – I was surprised to find how little talk was about what was going on in France. The event felt more like a Road Show for the Silicon Valley – “Let Loic Le Meur bring the Silicon Valley to you.” While I agree that it is valuable for French/European startupers to see what a startup ecosystem is like, isn’t it about time for the Silicon Valley to make the trip out to France to see what we’re doing over here?!
One of the guests on stage, Siberian Badoo founder Andrey Andreev, spoke with Loic Le Meur about his company’s moving to San Francisco, and Loic jokingly scolded him, saying it was his responsibility to start a company in his country, in order to help the ecosystem. I laughed. Loudly — it’s nice to hear patriotism from a man who abandoned his country for the Silicon Valley.

French Keynotes – don’t be silly!

As Sean Parker, Shervin Pishevar, Alexia Tsotsis and Loic took the stage for the final key note, I couldn’t help but think “Wow, we took 4 Bay Area natives, flew them out to Paris, and watched them have a chat… what does this have to do with France?” Meanwhile, France’s most important faces got sidelined as judges for the startup competition. Why were these roles not switched? I would’ve much rather have Sean Parker judging startups and Xavier Niel, Marc Simoncini, and PKM speaking about what Le Web really is.

Some lighter notes…

There were plenty of great off-camera events at Le Web – I think Sebastien Gestiere‘s video sum’s up nicely the experience of being at LeWeb. Yves Weisselberger also gave a nice summation of all the great things you might not have seen.
For now, we only get one or two events per year where France has a direct communication line to the silicon valley’s biggest hitters. While I think it’s great that Google finally got a real presence in France and Uber is choosing Paris as it’s next city to launch, why not show off some of the great French (or hell, even European) startups that could be launching in the US soon.

16 Responses

  1. Mike Butcher

    Linking to videos in French?! Not very RudeBaguette…

  2. Steeve Morin (@steeve)

    Although a bit provocative, it’s also a bit true…

  3. Vianney Lecroart (@acemtp)

    Completely agree with you Liam. It’s what it was, the Silicon Valley @Paris/France for 3 days.
    I would love to see a french conference with all the French entrepreneurs.
    I’m sure Niels, PKM and lot of other people could say interesting things too and in french. But it’s not the goal of LeWeb and I doubt Loic will change his focus. If we want that, it’ll have to be created from scratch with a French team that live in France, and it’ll never have as hype as LeWeb nor 3000+ people.

    • Liam Boogar

      I both agree and disagree.
      1. Xavier Niel (as a metaphor) can and must speak English
      2. An event for France by France (or for Europe, by Europe) can attract the same crowd – and you’re right, it must be created from scratch by people living in France ( not necessarily French people though 😉 )

  4. yannski

    Always nice to have a “foreign” POV on these subjects… Maybe there’s a need of a smaller LeWeb really concentrated on french stuff…

  5. Michelle

    Hi Liam, I appreciate your point of view (I’m American and also super conscious of what’s going down and if things are American or not) – – but I looked through all of our stats of who was at LeWeb onsite, onstage, and online – – and LeWeb was incredibly European – and French 😉
    LeWeb is international – onstage, onsite, and online LeWeb’11 http://bit.ly/vrhdHd
    Best,
    Michelle

    • Liam Boogar

      Thanks for reading the article and the link to the LeWeb stats. I think you and Cedric did a great job with the event. Like I said, it took me a full day just to take in what was going on.
      My main complaint is that I don’t think LeWeb took advantage of the international audience it has in order to show off what’s actually going on in France and with French startups – perhaps this isn’t the goal of LeWeb, but for now LeWeb is the only chance French startupers get to have this level of audience.
      I was happy to see some of my favorite European startups, like GetGauss and HeyCrowd, make it into the startup competition and even the finals; and I love to see Eric Schmidt talk the future of the Internet as much as anyone else; but these are all givens, and with the size of the audience online and in-person, I would’ve hoped to see more than LeCamping vanished to a corner and a few French startups dispersed throughout the days.
      Again, great job with LeWeb. There are plenty of merited articles about how great LeWeb is: I just find constructive criticism to be more helpful than blanket platitudes.

    • LeWeb

      I understand what you’re saying, and I would argue that LeWeb isn’t the showcase for the French start-up system. Although it’s in Paris and Loic is French, it’s international – – meaning everyone gets a chance, not just French companies. As I pointed out, though, 6 of the 16 startup finalists were French. Also, we would like to continue to work with Le Camping – they originally were not even going to hold their event at LeWeb 😉
      I absolutely agree with you that it’s good to hear ALL of the feedback! which is why I wanted to reply and link but also say we should get coffee some time. Thank you for your frankness

    • Liam Boogar

      Consider yourself Coffee’d.

    • matthieurouif

      At the end of the day, we got the best of all: American showtime, American super efficient mixing, French food and wine, Euro-Sean-Parker Parties, in the best city… Not very rude, right?
      I guess the issue is American start up rockstars draw attention from all around the world whereas French rockstars don’t draw attention from the U.S. Then, you have to make a choice if you want to get some traction globally for such an event.
      Also, I think you shouldn’t underestimate one of France’s main asset to build a top tech scene: Paris. Why do speakers come all the way from California? Because it’s Paris, baby!!! It’s (one of) the most beautiful place in the world to visit and to live in. Futur will tell if it can outweigh californian sun. But entrepreneurs definitely want a place they love to live in and they are quite free to choose, with all governments begging them to incorporate in their country. Regarding this, Paris makes it to the top of the list.
      By the way, very happy to make it to your favorite start up list. ^^

    • Liam Boogar

      Mathieu,
      First off, congratulations on your 2nd place finish in the Startup Competition! Well deserved – Emmanuel did a great job at pitching HeyCrowd. I have been told that the livestream of the event cuts to myself laughing hysterically after his ‘cocaine’ joke about Sean Parker.
      I don’t underestimate the power of Paris as an attraction for startupers at all – in fact, it’s one of the main arguments I use to justify why I think Paris will be the European tech hub in 5-10 years. I think that great startup talent are just starting to realize that startups can be born anywhere – if not now, then in the coming years – and when they realize they can go anywhere to do it, where do you think all those Californians are going to want to go? As you say, “Paris, baby!”
      I think LeWeb was a great event… I just don’t think it was a great event for the startupers in France who were hoping to make great connections to the Silicon Valley. Then again, I don’t think the SV is necessary at all for a great ecosystem in France or Europe. But we’ll see what comes of that in 2012

  6. Martin Weigert (@martinweigert)

    “I would’ve much rather have Sean Parker judging startups and Xavier Niel, Marc Simoncini, and PKM speaking about what Le Web really is”
    Well, you can imagine what that would have meant for the number of non-french people watching the stream of the final keynote… 😉

  7. sebastiengestiere

    Thanks to you, it was a pleasure talking with you 🙂 ( et Merci pour le lien even if the video is in french 😀 )

  8. LEWEB IS INTERNATIONAL – ONSTAGE, ONSITE, AND ONLINE | LeWeb Blog

    […] said, I felt the need to point out that LeWeb’s speakers – and audience – is certainly international. […]

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