After my first day at LeWeb, here are some thoughts on the conference and startups I’ve met:
The conference is really slick. Last year’s edition was widely panned for organizational troubles, but this year’s is just swanky. organisation is as smooth as can be for such a huge conference (even though it ran over by over an hour). Wifi is fast and plentiful. The roster of speakers, attendees and startups is impressive. Two thumbs up for the delicious French food (even smelly cheeses!) and the venue itself, Le 104 in Paris, which is just really gorgeous.
Sorry, but what a sausage fest! I suppose it’s unavoidable that a conference for technology entrepreneurs will be packed with men, but it’s a bit sad how male-dominated the speaker roster was. The two roundtables, on platforms and on entrepreneurship in Europe, were male-only. Hard not to feel sad about that.
And some great French startups…
Netvibes made a strong showing at LeWeb, handing out free (and delicious) wasabi pellets to promote its new Wasabi release. Netvibes is a customisable homepage, kind of like iGoogle, but even more customisable, and with the world’s biggest database of widgets. Wasabi’s main new feature is a Smart Reader that is like a slicked-up version of Google Reader. Wasabi has been in private beta for a few weeks now, and they’re making it public at LeWeb. Netvibes also has an interesting business model because they are striking deals to bring their customisable dashboards to the enterprise, competing head-on with Microsoft Sharepoint and Lotus Notes. Enterprise 2.0 is an enticing prospect and Netvibes is making great progress toward that. Netvibes’ business products have had really good success so far. (Disclosure: I used to work at Netvibes.)
Pearltrees is probably the next hot thing of the French web — and maybe the web in general. The best way to think about it is delicious on lots of steroids. When you bookmark a site on Pearltrees, it becomes a “pearl” and you arrange them as thematic trees (my favourite films, photographers…). When someone has pearled a similar site to yours you can see their own tree and therefore find new sites related to your interests. It’s all pulled together in a very slick Flash interface, with interconnected trees as so many user-generated mind maps. In a private interview, CEO Patrice Lamothe explained how Pearltrees offers a great opportunity to “curate” the web and socially organise its data. I like this startup because it’s the rare French startup that innovates on product and is brave enough to focus on product first and monetization later. They’ve raised a 2.5M€ angel round and expect to raise a VC round several months from now. Pearltrees is one of the big sponsors of LeWeb, and they’ve released their beta version (they were in open alpha before that) on stage at LeWeb.
Leetchi is another startup I really like. Unfortunately, the site is only in French right now, though founder & CEO Céline Lazorthes said she plans to have an English version up soon. The idea behind Leetchi is amazingly simple: making group gifts easy. If a bunch of friends want to chip in together to buy a gift for a friend for her birthday, they sign up on Leetchi, which will collect the money in one big pot. No more dozens of emails back and forth, collecting cash from those who “forgot”, etc. It’s a simple solution to a simple problem, and it works great. Leetchi makes money by encouraging people to buy the gifts through e-commerce partners. Stay tuned for more LeWeb coverage tomorrow, more startups, and hopefully plenty of gossip from the afterparties!
More Le Web coverage here.
Photo: Robert Scoble