LeWeb has always been a slightly different type of Web conference, some might say disorganised, perhaps as a result of its relaxed European heritage. Run for the last eight years in Paris, this year for the first time LeWeb has bought its eclectic line-up to London, filling the Central Hall in Westminster with 1,300 people from 50 countries and some heavy hitting speakers.
The audience may have been international but the event kicked off in truly British style. We heard from Brent Hoberman, of lastminute.com fame and latterly made.com and PROfounders Capital, Jonathan Luff and Rohan Silva, advisers to the government and Number 10 and Eric Van Der Kleij, the CEO of Tech City.
They started with an invitation to the numerous French tech entrepreneurs in the audience; if they were looking for a new home following the political changes in Paris, London would welcome them with open arms.
On a more serious note they summed up why they felt London was the centre of the European web community. They didn’t mention SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) by name, but they did highlight that the UK has the best tax breaks for early stage investment in tech start-ups.
This pro-British theme was reinforced by the power going off, intermittently leaving the room in darkness and temporarily halting proceedings. How very British.
The conference may not have the scale or slickness of SXSW, but it’s still wall-to-wall tech entrepreneurs and, alongside the main programme, day one also saw a separate arena with a tech start up competition.
The theme for the main arena was “Faster than real time”. A loose theme that faded after an opener on Big Data and the opportunities it brings for predictive modelling.
Still, the fact that search data around different European economic crises can predict movements in the markets with 80% accuracy was an eye-opener. Delivered by two McKinsey consultants it suffered from consultant speak and too many facts the audience already knew. Please don’t tell me about the growth of smartphone penetration again! They got better, but only just.
We saw Jamie Oliver and $1 billion Instagram Co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom on stage together, a little surreal and surprisingly dull. There was a Google+ sales pitch from Vice President of Product Management, Bradley Horowitz and Facebook, Klout, Fab and Codeacademy also all had their time on stage.
So what were the most interesting things I picked up from Day One?…
“It’s all about shifting from impressions to connections” – We all know it, but Bonin Bough from Kraft, the only brand present, expressed it rather nicely.
Social discovery is coming fast – Continuing a theme from SXSW the serendipity of social discovery was everywhere from Badoo to Google+. Now how are we going to build campaigns around it?
Google+ isn’t dead yet – In fact, if you believe the hype while it may not have reached “hyper growth”, 170 million users, a partnership with FlipBoard and more announcements due at Google I/O next week mean watch this space.
(Google+ has 170 million users – Yes Mr Horowitz but how many are actually active?)
The future of Facebook is “mobile, mobile, mobile” – Google+ say they have no issues with mobile. Facebook clearly reckon they are going to crack it too.
Instagram have gone all secretive – Kevin Systrom will not be drawn on how many active users they have. Over 50 million is all you’ll get.
“The world is not just about silicon valley” – Who knew? Travis Kalanick CEO of San Francisco based Uber clearly did.
Some people really care about their Klout score – Joe Fernandez, Co-Founder & CEO of Klout has received death threats over people’s perceptions their scores aren’t high enough.
The Internet has saved people’s lives – So says Martha Lane Fox.
“You can get fired for hiring IBM” – The world has changed that much. There are cheaper, arguably better, more connected cloud based enterprise services out there.
If you want to get hold of Jamie Oliver, try Instagram – The rest of his social channels may go through a digital team but Instagram definitely doesn’t.
The tipping point has been reached – There are now more iPads in the audience at tech conferences than MacBooks. But Apple still rules.