I have been thinking for the past two days which were my gains, if any, from my participation to LeWeb. Listing a fair amount of gains is the best defense for an event that has received a fair amount of criticism so far. Inexistent wifi, scarce food and a cold room were sure a nuisance to most. But are these the things that attract us in a conference? No. They are enablers maybe, necesary preconditions for efficient work, but not the reason people fly over from other countries or continents.
So, what did I gain?
a. Getting out of the box
Our personal lives, our daily routines and jobs act like a lullaby to creative thinking. They reinforce the stereotypes we’ve acquired in the course of time and hinder our imagination. A frequently applied remedy is to step back, step aside, step out (call it whatever you want) for a while and see from a different angle things past and things to come. Doing so in complete isolation, or amidst the distractions of a tourist destination, will not yield significant results. One needs new stimuli from a crowd of smart, like minded people to regenerate his drive. LeWeb was for me just this: the perfect opportunity to sit back, listen to new ideas and perspectives, meet interesting people out of their daily routines, in a place where they had the luxury to pay me attention. So I came up with a new idea about my business, which I believe can make a difference in the near future. And this despite the fact that I could not forget for a moment that back in my home country things had turned wild, people were burning cars and shops and tear gas was all you could breath.
b. Meeting the right people
Meeting interesting people is a good thing, but not necessarily a precondition for advancing you career or your life. Meeting the right people, though is. With 1500 participants from 30 countries, you have to be a complete idiot not to find at least one person with the potential to be a catalyst for your plans. Thankfully, I found more than one and I am happy for it. Someone commented in Friendfeed whether the cost of this networking is justifiable. But that can only be appreciated by contrast: how much would it cost to arrange meeting, say, ten different people from four different countries and one different continent? Let alone the time required.
c. The European spin
Startups in Europe lack many things but most of all lack the publicity machine of their US and Silicon Valley counterparts. Loic himself epitomizes it: he left Europe for the States in order to have this missing link of success. Now, whether he’ll make it or not, it is a completely different story. But it is because of him that LeWeb, unlike the other European events, is close to be the bridging event of the two worlds. The closing session (:Gillmor Gang live from LeWeb), where the discussion eventually turned about the comparison of US vs European, brought forth this in the most vivid way. The stage was occupied by Americans and Loic was the only European trying to voice his arguments in a demonstrably soft and appeasing way. For me, as a European entrepreneur, this was a lesson taught. If Europe wants to make anything with its startups, then first needs to find a way to speak about them in a panEuropean fashion. Europe needs to create its own publicity machine for its startups, and needs to address Europeans first. Till then, it will be totally depended on the US and, probably, startups seeking success will have to follow Loic’s example.
Closing this short note, I have to add that this was my first time to LeWeb, or any other major internet event. I have been in many corporate events before but nothing like this. For this reason I was more receptive than old timers and more enthusiastic. Maybe after attending numerous conferences, I will also turn cynic and ironic. But till then, I am thankful for this first one.