Dec 08

LeWeb: Bill Gross from Idealab

Bill Gross, Founder & CEO, Idealab
“Learning From Failure: 20 Years of Entrepreneurial Lessons in 20 Minutes”

Solar power plans at highschool. Gave Lesson 1: Market Power, when market taking off without you doing, is best. Need to get in early for this.

At college, designed high end speakers. Sold at school and in stores. HAd to convince people to buy.. This lead to Lesson 2: master the demo. Know how to sell and convince people.

Graduated and bought first computer., Worked with Lotus 123, developed accountancy tools. and ways to make Lotus easy. Sold on to Lotus. Had a great time there. This lead to Lesson 3: Pursue your Passion. You have to work at something you love, only way to get over the great challenges.

Then started an educational company, to get kids to fall in love with learning. Started doing weekend demos at the companies, just got people to do this from the company to make the numbers. They shared the stories…which led to product development…making narrower products, for a single year of age. Despite Sales force being against it, they tried it and it sold well. This is Lesson 4: Focus, Focus, Focus, do fewer things extraordinarily well.

Next up was Idealab, to get people to try things, without punishment. Has started 100 companies from this (about 300 rounds of financing, raised about £2.8b. Had 40 failures, but rest good. This led to lesson 5: Recognise your Strengths. Brough in people complemented him.

Talking about successes, failures and in progress. A failure was eToys, ecommerce for toys. Raised 400k, Grew over 3 years, then went public. At one point had market cap greater than ToyRUS. Post IPO, it grew very, very quickly, did 160m in revenue, but had built for 300m. Then dotcom crash, could not do second, so Lesson 6: Don’t overbuild. So grow slowly, better to do that than fail due to going to fast. was another failure, comedy stuff. Got people to do lots of content. Needed broadband..not enough. So slowly. They hired 120, then cut and cut and cut…ran out of money. Ahead of time. So lesson 7: Survive until market is ready. Should have cut burn until ready.

CarsDirect started in 1999. Wanted to sell cars online, without going to dealers. Tested over a short time, 3 months, low cost. Got someone to run it, was looking deals, doing lots of planning…site live on day 80…sold 4 cars first night. THen turned it off, they had proved the idea, so spent 6 months building it properly! So lesson 8: test, test, test. Don’t spend money in advance, have to make it a real test though, with the customer was in 1998; companies were buying traffic, through ads, or through portals. Developed model of cost for click (instead of CPM as it was then in the main). People did not like the idea…launched and it grew…it became Overture. Everyone signed up. Sold to Yahoo..who 5 years had said they would never do it. Lesson 9 is stick with it. They had a great idea and kept at it

Now looking at Solar, building something that can be deployed quickly, to drive costs down. There are challenges, huge capital needs, so GE invested. LEsson 10, You need the Partners. YOu need the right partners to develop.

Finally, Ubermedia. Saw tweets leaving stream, without relevance, wanted to make it easier to find things. We grew, we acquired, we have built own. Lesson 10: you have to harness users passion

Final lesson, all truth has 3 stages. First is ridiculed, the violently opposed than accepted as being self-evident. You need to be ready to face ridicule and opposition….

Dec 08

LeWeb: The Money Panel

Money Panel: Moderated by: Jonathan Goodwin, CEO & Partner J Goodwin & Co LLP

  • Jeff Clavier, Founder & Managing Partner, SoftTech V
  • Harry Nelis, Partner, Accel Partners
  • Dave McClure, 500 Hats
  • Eric Archambeau, General Partner, Wellington Partners

HN: looking at game sin Mobile, eg Rovio etc, one of the first investors in Facebook. Looking at next-gen ecommerce.
DM: mostly tiny incubator seed investments, one of the most active. over 120 deals in last 12 months. Biggest miss is Parse – missed the volume
JC: about 20 investments a year, 400k average, mostly in the US. a lot of mobile services, next-gen ecommerce
EA: invest in early companies throughout EU, still looking for a good French deal. Involved on mobile for a while,

Are they worried about debt crisis, underfunded IPOs? Looking longer term? YOu have to be worried about collapse if you want to continue doing business, but there is a resilience in anything you are doing. What is being done by EA is really long term; looking at studies, it takes 9 years from funding to IPO for average company. Average time for VC is 6 years, for decent investment. There is a disconnect btw investor expectation and reality, EA focuses in long term

At the moment, short term JC not seeing changes in microeconomics, but macro will impact at some point. HN thinks the flow of money will continue, there is a self-reinforcing mechanism in place, that investors make money with exits and it flows back into the investment. DM the environment has more impact on the LP environment, that is investment in investors, rather than VC investment in companies. THere are a few v large funds and a lot of smaller funds, they are the trend. A lot of VC are finding their models squeezed btw the very large and the very nimble and small.

In last 3 years, says JC, US venture has invested more than it has raised. A lot of transactions are in early companies, the employees on FB etc releasing their liquidity through personal deals. Last stage VCs are seeing more deals than used to, so more choice. DM, thinks it is positive, it is getting better environment, lot of positive reasons for investors to reason. One area to have a little concern is to look at valuations, a little overheated, across the board.
HN thinks the private companies are overvalued a little, instead of public companies. JC looks at public companies, that investors have lost money (on paper)

So what is going wrong if public companies not keeping value? HN says we are having worst crisis since WWII, so prices are not so great. So prices being lower is not to do with investors or banks going wrong, but general environment. But JG says that this sector has generally been good, so thinks there are too large exits which impacts the public deals. But DM says you can’t lump all the web together, lots of different perspectives.

One of the mistakes we need to learn from, says EA, is what is a bubble. It’s a disconnect btw the investors and the floaters. When the stock exchanges become an VC. They hate surprises (due to the model they work with, eg pensions), their views of what stock should be, the movements that should be happening, is different to early stage companies, that needs to work on infrastructure, such as managing outcomes. Looked at companies that have been made public and then look at infrastructure, a lot of work to get the processes in place. Companies can do revenues, but won’t be predictable, won’t suit markets.

JC says that what is happening, with Zynga etc, not there 3 years ago, so only a few quarters of data. Is the structure there? In mobile, says EA, we are yet to see that. There are a number of mobile businesses that are seeing exciting trends, that are getting ready to take advantage, so growth could be faster. An enormous platform for interesting biz opps.

Looking at returns, DM is looking in Asia etc. China is mobile phone largest market, inc smartphones. YOu are seeing dramatic growth in those markets. DM is now 25% international development, was 10%. JG asks if length of investment will be longer in these markets but DM does not think that. THinks that 6 years is too long, companies are having liquidity events before the IPO. DM average investment is 3 years, in 1-5 years is the normal for him. HN thinks the cycle will shorten. Businesses are growing faster than they have ever done. THinks mobile biz will grow even faster. DM thinks the cost structure changes have helped – you don’t have to spend a lot to start things, more being tried, then you can see the successful ones. HN sees massive trends you can take advantage of. JG knows that a that smaller end there is more M&A than before; seeing a lot more US corporates getting involved in EU, seeing a growth in this. EA thinks the big returns, for institutions, has been from the big IPOs. You have large amounts of money from institutions, getting big returns from IPO. There are also lots more smaller ones, from small VCs.

Looking forward to next year, hopefully Euro sorts itself, but what excites you? HM focusing on mobile, emerging economies. DM is looking at subscription verticals in commerce, eg coffee, condoms etc. Straightforward to go after, easy to go after, predictable revenue. Also looking at books, educations, for children, eg on ipad. Education was difficult to go into historically, but now you can go direct to consumer. Not been looked at as much, but it is huge and easy to get into. JC is in same geography, but very excited about mobile, building mobile equip of successful webservices. See about 50-60% of mobile investment. EA sees the same kind of businesses; always surprised by creativity of entrepeneurs. EA is EU focused; looking at Berlin, the place to go, Stockholm is brilliant, plus London.

Dec 07

LeWeb: Virgin Galactic

George Whitesides, CEO, Virgin Galactic
Wants to talk about space but also about sharing about dreams (shows video of Branson and the space plane/rocket).

When we think of space, do we think of a large gov programme that needs lots and lots of people? or is it closer to Virgin Galactic, which is smaller. Galactic is taken up to 50k ft and then dropped. does not need the same type of infrastructure.

Galactic started with X-prize, Scale composites who wanted to compete, then Paul Allen who wanted to do it to, then Branson looking to commercialize it and bring it to people around the world. SpaceshipOne flew 3 times to space and won the xprize and showed that a small team could make it

We are excited to bring space to many people, including global leaders, let them see the world from space. We bring weightlessness. Brings something completely new to people. The third part is the most profound. looking out, to the galaxy with no atmosphere.

We have 475k people signed up. Amazing group of people. Incredible group of people, we share experiences in the lead up to commercial flight. Since the beginning of space travel, 525 people have been to space. We want to to that in first year. We’ll be flying from spaceports, they are springing up all over the UK, around the world. Will be flying from spaceportamerica, in New Mexico Building spaceships in California, getting new investors, company capitalised at over 1b.

Project is testament to that small groups can do things. Space industry is going through the same phase as aero industry 100 years ago. Expect to see space trips, but turns into commutes, eg going across the atlantic in

Dec 07

LeWeb: Instagram

Kevin Systrom, CEO, Instagram and Alexia Tsotsis, Writer, TechCrunch

Learnt at Odeo, it’s about the team not the first product you worked on. At BOurbon, learnt same thing, the product not working. With no dark moments, you just go sideways, you don’t learn. With Instagram we realised we had to do something new. And that was a hard decision.

Is it mainstream? it’s normal behaviour, to take pictures. Instagram just makes it easy. It had not been done the right way in mobile the iphone4 launched, network speeds where there, so hardware supported it. We’ll see the same net change with video.

If facebook added Filters? They’ve always been available to some extent, but instagram is not the core competency, it’s not the defensible asset. it is the community, 15m users that are excited about sharing photos to friends. Filters get people taking more photos, but it is the network that excites me

Twitter shares a lot of the same DNA, it’s about what is sharing now, around you. Instagram is the start of something, it’s not just photosharing.

Instagram is not grown-up yet, at stage of FB when it was college only. But if you look at larger idea, it is bigger than iphone app. We have all these other platforms to hit. We are at the tip of what we can do.

How will you get revenue to afford the scale? The focus is to grow the network, or no advertiser will scare. We love how many brands are signing up everyday, doing beautiful pictures everyday,, sharing message of brands through platform. The advertising experience will be engaging. We are growing network now, that is later.

We have 2 people working on Android now (just hired someone). It’s very exciting…to get a new market,

Planning on hiring…when building a team it is not about the headcount. We bring on the best people we can find…at some point you can talk about scale, not we’re not there. It’s about picking best positions to fill and putting the best people in there.

Looking at other people, apple, twitter etc, photos are what ties us together, as people want to record their lives. Apple is about base consumer experience, it’s about sharing across devices. They have an open platform, that others can specialise on. We have a great relationship. Going forward, we want to be independent, as we have a lot to accomplish. We chose iOS first, as we were all iOS users. The screen on iphone 4 was a turning point, someone had to take advantage of that.

Dec 07

LeWeb: Foursquare

Dennis Crowley, Co-Founder & CEO, Foursquare and Robert Scoble, American Blogger, Technical Evangelist and Author, Rackspace

LeWeb 2011

CLose to 30m locations around the world. Started with a couple thousand venues now. 15m users, 4m checkins a day. 600k companies. Using Ec2 at the moment, getting expensive. 170m API calls a day. About 50% of usage is outside US. eg Brazil has great growth.

Landscape is pretty wide, more than now a checkin, but explore opens up what they do. Not too bothered about the smaller ones, but keeps an eye out on all. a lot of interesting things.

New features of the year, working on the Explore recommendation engine, announced at SXSW. With explorer, used checkin info to build these, about helping people. Now we have Radar, you don’t have to ask questions about this. It knows about things you want to do, and can tell you about things you may be interested in.

As a platform, using 4sq data, lots of apps using it. Devs think location generator is one of the best datasets out there. Satisfied about how quickly it is adopted. We need to find ways for people to push data back into the 4sq database, so we build the data connections

People are changing user behaviour, conditioned a lot of people to share places through 4sq. See people who use app but don’t checkin, so seeing people consuming data rather than creating. People can figure out what to do in new places; don’t need to checkin, can still get info from others

Bullding a new company is difficult. Everytime we add 10-15 people, the company breaks. We have to keep the ratios right. Wehave 100 or so people. We think about monetization a lot, about the tools we use, the tools the merchants are using and making 4sq a valuable long term business. We do not have a sales force, but 600k merchants by word of mouth. We can help merchants by telling them who their best customers are

We are growing out machine learning and big data team. Explorer came in March, Radar in Oct, those are the 2 big directions we are going. App is good at telling you what you should be doing.

Fav apps are 4sq/ 7 years ago. Brings you checkins from last year. Reminds you what you were doing. Also Don’t Eat at. Using the health scores to send you info about restaurants. We see mashups, piggyback off the checkin, sending people sending something interesting.

Dec 07

LeWeb: Eric Schmidt

Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google

LeWeb 2011

SoMoLO: Mobile is always the first question and answer, everything goes mobile. Local and social, that’s where people are.
We have seen breakouts in companies over the last 5 years that don’t need technician to’s all easy to use now
Google promo for phone on Android, from Hugo Barro. Includes facial recognition for unlocking phone; regular used apps and connection, has social apps – real time updates etc. has widgets, moveable across screens. Widgets allow you to more easily control, via notifications, what is happening across the apps, from the home screen. Spent a lot of time making it great for everyone.
Have tried to weave people and social into the platform, see who you follow, can get favourites etc, shows all the data connected to people and what data you have with them

They started off thinking phones were like computers, and forgot that they were about people talking. Focused on this in this release. Lots of people things. Taking and sharing photos, can do panoramas, share it easily from screens, from lots of different apps that are hooked into photosharing api. Android Bean is NFC…can easily share between devices…just touch the devices. Has open APIs, so people can build apps on top of it. Every app can respond to an NFC sharing request. Also a way to share apps – if you tap and you don’t have it, then will take you to the apps market. Starting to build out data about inside places, eg Malls, so that maps will work inside places.

Also announcing a web analytics programme for social. So you can see what is being said about you

Eric talked about where we are going. Big scalable platforms, lots of personalised devices with the clouds. Thinking about computing evolution, computers will do what they do well, humans will do what they will do. Computers have infinite memories, solve needle in haystack problems, Phone should remember my trips to Paris, what I have seen, have liked etc. There is an explosion in big data, and phones can learn. Can start doing suggestions based on previous behaviour.

What is the impact on countries…it is easy to start a revolution, but the social tools won’t produce a new leader, a new government. Once you have started, with mobile connections, expectations are very high. As Sarkozy told him, it took 100 years for France to stabilise after French revolution,who would wait that long today?

One thing he told Sarkozy, is that Silicon Valley needs a competitor. Paris is one of the cities that could compete. entrepreneurship tends to be young, less commitments, more risk taking etc. Cities as this is were these people to be found,. The diversity and ideas is also strongest there. paris has a good shot of this. Politicians tend to nod and listen but take no action; they care about jobs, so we need to do this. Internet is creating new jobs, as its creating new markets for businesses. The role of gov is to make sure citizens have low cost fixed and wireless broadband and citizens will do a lot more.

What about regulation? They’re concerned about premature regulation, about laws that prevent products being invented. Gov recognise internet importance, always saying that you should not turn off the internet. If you don’t like the mirror, don’t break it, figure out the image problem. We need to get message out that internet is core source of future growth in Europe. There’s not enough early stage investing here, and entrepreneurs need to learn and share

But what about the competition….Eric says Paris needs to get its act together..or move to the US where they won’t give you a visa (as they’re idiots). There is huge race to get on these platforms and own it. It’s a race. Lots of people trying hard. THere are the opportunities. You have to find it.

Google+. how is this going. Eric says Facebook is great, a great job. but competition is good. Focused on G+ as opp for more privacy controls, and then Google benefits from the information you provide it (with permission). THe social signal is useful as a ranking signal.

Eric thinks Android is ahead of iPhone, more vendors, lower prices, more unified, free. Android was founded before the iphone 🙂

So what about TV? Found ways to get GoogleTV/Android embedded in the TV, so they’re starting to get into TVs

Dec 07

LeWeb: Morning sessions

I combined notes from the morning sessions, many of which were about new product launches.

Travis Kalanick, Co-Founder & CEO, Uber and MG Siegler, General Partner, CrunchFund

Uber have got cars now on the ground at Paris. They’ve launched here. (that’s their big news). 18 months into operations as a company…came up with the idea 3 years ago at LeWeb. Had cars on the ground since Friday. moving across Europe. Also just raised a large round of funding – just closed $32m in funding. They have 60 cars in Paris. a third to half the drivers, are fully committed. Expect to be rolling out 2 cities a month next year.

Steve Jang, Co-Founder & CEO, SoundTracking and MG Siegler, General Partner, CrunchFund

Look, another announcement. Soundtrack is a sharing music system, you can check in your music. Sharing ‘music moments’ across social networks. Now they’ve launched on Android app as well. A couple of new things, better clip integration, and better ability to share when playing songs.

Dave Morin, Co-Founder & CEO, Path and Loic Le Meur, Founder, LeWeb
Loic interviews Dave about Path.

It relaunched recently
It’s about sharing the stuff with the people who are closest to you. Took last 6 months to do the new one. Care about quality and design, design driven organisation. Launched on iphone and Android at same time. Building apps, gets complex for each platform. Can’t really do it with HTML5. Have raised about 8.5m last Jan, with long term partners. Want to focus long term, to do quality design and products. Thinking about turning Path into a platform, no real move, just thinking about it. There’s a start here on latest version, with being able to send content out to favourite platform. For new version, asked users, looked at user behaviours, eg, screenshots of notes, of others, used this to define what content should be on the version. THey asked people how they saw Path – it was a journal. So enabled people to do what they were trying to do already with screenshots. Some good advice: stay with the problems for ling enough to solve them! People get afraid and ship bad stuff, too early. Shipped v1 as min viable product and thought they could iterate…but it takes 3 weeks or so and not fast enough for people. So spent more time to get to quality version

Mike McCue, CEO, Flipboard and Loic Le Meur, Founder, LeWeb

Raised $60m for the one app. You have to beleive the iPad would be a major new platform, believe it will change behaviour. Not enough Android tablets yet, had to pick a platform to focus on. Have 4.5m downloads; (out of 45m ipads), (did not say active users).

Kevin Rose, Co-Founder & CEO, Milk with Leo Laporte, Author, Speaker & Broadcaster and Sarah Lane,

TechTV was were KR was first on TV. THis is when he started thinking about Digg. Looking at how slashdot worked, thinking about getting users to vote on them, in 2004. To surface more story. Used TV platform to promote it. Had cool people at TechTV, saw they were like him, got inspiration to try cool stuff. KR still on board, but not working at it. The first 3 years were insane, chaos to keep it going. Users often caused problems – had death threats. It was being gamed, there were problems. Gettting sorted..has about 20m monthly uniques. Highest was 38m. They had seen traffic going down before the relaunch. Agreed they should have spent more time listening to core users, instead of listening to everyone esle, investors etc. Thinks the new versions has done a good job of getting the core features back.
Now with Milk, new product is Oink. A rating system for items in places. Eg meals in restaurants. It was invite on the app store, had to get people who were passionate to create the content to open it up. Dropped the invite fairly quickly as it caused issues. YOu can like ‘anything’ in the world. IS that too broad? But people are focusing on specialist areas, to get levels in the various elements,eg sound systems, burgers etc.
This a challenge for apps like this, the users have to put energy and content in there. It’s not ‘gamification’ as stuff, it has to be utility to keep people there. Working on new features to keep helping this.

Mobile Demo: Leah Busque, Founder & Product Officer,TaskRabbit

An online and mobile market place, to outsource tasks to people in community. Eg shopping etc, They also have virtual tasks. Most popular task is ‘assemble ikea furniture’. Virtual tasks can be done from anywhere. You fill in the tabs, People will bid etc

Dec 07

LeWeb: Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld, Fashion Designer, Photographer, Publisher, Designer and Film Director & Loic Le Meur, Founder, LeWeb
During the dicussion, Karl & Loic will be joined by Natalie Massenet, Founder & Executive Chairman, THE NET-A-PORTER Group Limited

The show started off with some live breakdancing, then the first person interviewed was Karl Lagerfeld, the fashion designer. It’s not immediately obvious why he is up on stage, althoguh he’s funny and droll. He has a special bag containing 4 iPhones (each one for different sets of people), an iPad, a few iPods (he loads them up, has different music sets on different ones out of the 100s that he has). He uses these tools to help design, to sketch ideas.

He has over 300k books, a self-declared paper freak, but also uses a Kindle and the iPad for other content consumption. HE doesn’t see paper going away, but sees like TV and theatre. They will still be there.

He does 3 different collections for Lagerfeld (plus Chanel)…does not spend a lot of time on web as having to do collections.

Ahh, now we get to the reason, Why we have a designer on here.. Karl Lagerfeld is going to be online, ‘Karl’ a fashion brand entirely online for the first time. A new line from him. It’s going to be a ‘truly online launch’, from AR, mobile etc. It will be on from 25 Jan (plus netaporter). Apparently it’s all about accessibility, online with ‘accessible prices’, with women all over the world having access to Karl (yes, Natalie is quoting the marketing message) It’s ‘modern’ that is going directly to the consumer, not to the fashion press first. Shipping all over the world.

With Renault last night and this launch, LeWeb is being seen as one of the the places to launch anything…even if the tech collection is actaulyl small. For me, just because it is on the web, does not mean it is tech. The web is ubiquitous, it’s not longer cutting edge. They’re celebrating that they are on all the social networks, etc etc, that they’re being innovative. They’re not the first, they’re just one of the first with a huge name!

Yes, I’m being a little cycnical; for the people launching this, it is seen as the next big frontier, really innovative. But it’s not really. It’s all about where they are on the journey.

Dec 07

LeWeb: Early doors

I arrived slightly too early at LeWeb this morning, before they were really ready. People were running around still setting up, on stage, rehearsals were taking place, running through demos and videos, some of the ‘top secret’ that we were asked not to mention as they are big reveals for later in the day.

I’m predicting coffee problems though, there’s 4 small Nespresso machines in the main area, serving up expresso. I guess it tastes good (I never do expresso unless forced to) but I’d prefer big coffee! And service will be slow. But that’s the only niggle so far, wifi is fast, I have a seat and a table for blogging (although I’m going to have to continue to get here early for that, as only 60 seats set up), food is good and I’m expecting the usual mixture of big speeches and interesting interludes. As well as one of the best places to connect with the best tech and web people in Europe.

Dec 07

LeWeb: Kicking off with Renault

I’m here at LeWeb in Paris for the next few days, again as an official blogger. Expect the usual set of liveblogs from the main stage, plus the odd tweet and photo.

The event kicked off for us bloggers last night with a reception held at the L’Atrium Renault, on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. It got a thumbs up from me by providing chocolate, champagne and a fast car in the form of a Red Bull Show car but the main purpose of the evening was to launch Renault’s new in-car innovation, what they are calling the RLink. It’s an integrated touch-screen tablet for their new cars, starting with the Clio and Zoe, providing all the usual interfaces with the car, navigation aids etc as well as being connected to the web and the ability to connect with your smartphone. But the reason for launching this at LeWeb, and what makes it unusual, is that the tablet is open for third-arty apps to be developed. They’re hoping the start-up/app developers will try some new things and provide useful apps for the car user.

I asked the head Renault person there, Patric, if they had already built the driving app to control the car from your mobile and he just laughed. But in serious, they are looking at the things like being able to connect to car park data etc so that the car will be able to direct you to empty spaces – or even drive itself. Looks an intereasting opportunity to build something in a new space. What would you like to see?

Update: Here’s a video Renault have pulled together