David Lenehan was at LeWeb3 in Paris, on behalf of Read/WriteWeb. Here is his overview.
The LeWeb3 Conference kicked off yesterday morning in Paris and has just finished up this evening. Our host Loic Le Meur of Seesmic opened the event with much fanfare, flashing lights and European techno music. He acknowledged the criticisms of last years event, and promised that they learned from the feedback they received. The conference was split between 3 large buildings covering the keynotes and panels in one, a startup stage in another one, and a large comfortable networking space in another. This is one of the better conferences I have been to in recent years. Wifi worked for the most part, there was very healthy amount of new startups demoing, the VCs and angels were out in force, and the keynotes - although too relaxed and light at times - were mostly interesting and engaging. Pretty much 100% of the conference is going to be available for free to watch online soon here, so check out the videos if there is anything you would like to have seen. Here are a few of the highlights...
Janus Friis - Joost
Janus Friis is a founder of Kazaa, Skype, Joost and Atomico Investments. He is not someone who regularly talks at these events so it was a rare treat to listen to someone of his caliber and experience. He talked about Kazaa's quick rise to fame and the years of litigation that followed. From there they went on to build Skype, an organization that quickly had hundreds of employees and eventually sold to ebay for $2.6b. With his new venture Joost just passing the 4 million user mark, he recalled a time when he was going to talk to TV stations about distributing their content and being told "Are you the guy from Kazaa? we have some people in our legal team that would like to talk to you first!" He is also now involved with a new investment firm called Atomico ventures. He is a master at building disruptive technologies and a very interesting person to listen to.
Evan Williams - Twitter
Evan's talk was one that I found to be particularly interesting. He asked the crowd to think about what new things could be created by stripping down and simplifying existing products, as opposed to building more feature rich ones. Twitter being the perfect example of this idea. A blogging platform with pretty much every useful feature removed! It is an interesting alternative approach for product development and one that I think is worth exploring for anyone building web apps today.
Marc Canter bringing social to software
Unfortunatly I missed this panel with Patrick Chanezon (Google), Tariq Krim (Netvibes), Hans Peter Brondmo (Plum), Susan Kish (European Energy Forum) and Marc Canter (Broadband Mechanics). But most people I talked to today said that it was one of the best discussions that happened. You can see a video of it here when they have it uploaded.
Interface design and user experience
I found Shadram Izadi's (from Microsoft) talk on interface design fascinating. He showed some videos of Microsoft Surface and a new product called Thinsight in action. These computers are focused on having more than one person using them at a time, and using your fingers and hands to interact with them. The Thinsight screen is so sensitive that you can use a fine paint brush to draw on it and it will pick up every stroke. You can see some videos of them in action here.
This year at LeWeb3 there was a separate building dedicated to startup pitches. Over 30 startups went head to head in 7 minute presentations in front of a panel of judges. The winners were:
- Goojet - A mobile app that allows you to organize your phones pictures, RSS feeds, notes etc. through their website.
- PlyMedia - A cool widget for adding media layers on top of web video.
- g.ho.st - A web OS app.
Towards the end of today we had a short presentation from the childrens charity NineMillion.org. To raise awareness they are hoping to get 9 million small actions from people on the web. To help out you can just link to their site, create a video, or basically make any small action you can on your website or blog, to point back to their site. Just add the tag 'ninemillion' to any content you create. Its a worthy cause and you can find out more about here.
There were a lot more interesting discussions happening that I have not covered here. There was so much good stuff going on between the 3 buildings it was hard to sit down and focus on any one thing. Loic and Geraldine have turned LeWeb3 into a really great conference, possibly the best web conference of the year. Some of the keynotes and panels were a little too light and relaxed at times, but the startup action and networking really made up for it.
A good time was had by all at the Netvibes and Shopping.com party. Pretty much all of the web 2 'glitterati' were here in force [Ed: except for me of course]. I will definitely be coming back here next year. If you are interested in seeing some of the keynotes and panels, you will be able to get all of the video from here once it is published.