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December 21, 2013

Owyang's big LeWeb bet

Wow. I felt there was a very different vibe to Jeremiah Owyang's talk at LeWeb last week. I wasn't wrong:

It was really a make-it or break-it moment, the stakes were high, and I knew it would be success or failure on a global, public stage. At the time, I was exhausted from very little sleep, emotionally drained, in a daze, jet-lagged. At the same time, I was fueled off executing off a researched plan, working with a team, a bit of French coffee, lots of adrenaline, and hope that everything was just gonna somehow work out.

That's a hell of a way to place a huge career (and, thus, family) bet on a vision of what social media could be - rather than what it is now.

December 15, 2013

Revisiting Apple Maps

A Paris hotel's locationOccasionally, I make decisions which make me question my own sanity. For example, last Monday, I arrived in Paris via the Eurostar, after attending a funeral in the morning. What's the obvious thing to do next? Grab a bite to eat? Jump in a cab to the hotel? Have a wee drinkie?


Thumbnail image for Walking Paris with Apple MapsApparently, it's to check in on Apple Maps for the first time in over a year. Like many people who upgraded to iOS 6 back in 2012, I played with Apple Maps a couple of times, got terrible results, and abandoned it as soon as the Google Maps app was released. I'd decided to walk to my hotel - it was only 20 minutes away, and you wait way longer than that for a cab at Gare du Nord. Besides, once a cabbie left me the wrong side of Paris at completely the wrong hotel. Not feeling the love for the Parisian cab driver.  And so needed directions, and I'd rather have them without wandering the backstreets of Paris with my phone in front of me the entire journey. I looked up the hotel in Apple Maps on my iPhone, stuck some music on, and allowed the voice to guide me the whole way, only getting it out of my pocket once to check exactly where I was meant to be going.

And I arrived. I was exactly where I needed to be without any problems at all. This was not my experience of using Apple Maps a year ago, when it once delivered me to completely the wrong street for a breakfast meeting.

Suitably impressed, I used it for the rest of my stay. I made an ad hoc decision that evening to check the walking route back to my hotel from the point the Official Blogger party bus dropped me off rather than just using the Metro. 15 minute walk? Fine. And I arrived no problem at all. 

That encouraged me to start looking at some of the other functions I'd pretty much ignored. The 3D modelling of the area around the hotel was recognisably the right place (see the image at the top of this post). And how about the venue for LeWeb itself?

That looks pretty familiar:

Eurosites Les DocksIt also reveals that there's a dirty great pile of aggregates (or similar) just beyond the venue that I never realised was there...

Pretty decent work from the Apple team, it appears. Now I'll be giving it a work out here in provincial West Sussex to see if it holds up outside a major European capital. 

December 12, 2013

LeWeb Paris 2013 Startup Competition Winners announced

#leweb - Kevin Marks on the web that will win

Kevin Marks

Liveblog of Kevin Marks speaking at LeWeb Paris 2013.

Yesterday's Web

We started with a web largely built on open source and the the LAMP stack. And then Internet Explorer swept in and started to dominate the web. Would Microsoft own the web? 10 years ago it looked like it.

But Firefox was beginning, the Webkit project was underway at Apple - and the first steps towards to HTML5 were happening. The seeds of the overthrow of Microsoft's hegemony were sown.

The same year - 2003 - the Sidekick was sowing the seeds of mobile. There was Friendster, where Mark Zuckerberg was a keen user. But there was no real time web - Google updated its index once a month. This was know as the "Google Dance" as rankings changed. People accessed the web through portals and their homepage.

Blogging was picking up speed. Pages were updated in minutes, and pinged each other to create links. Technorati was indexing them in minutes - a lot faster than a month.

This web was built on open specs, by companies who interoperated.

Today's Web

But then blogging was absorbed by silos - by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The new devices arrived. iOS, Android and BlackBerry all had browsers first and the apps came later. Android is the biggest OS in the world, so we have open source on both servers and devices. Social is going the other way and getting locked down.

  • Will apps replace the web? They're just a very specialised browser that only reads one site.+ Is Facebook a new portal? Well, it's beginning to feel like the Yahoo! of 10 years ago. "Yeah, everyone's here but it's not an exciting place any more".
  • Is mobile special? Desktop and mobile and tablets are all converging. The distinction of big screen and small screens is going away. We're just habituated to doing different things on different devices.

What have we learnt?

  • The open stuff outlasts companies. Protocols outlast the products they were built for.
  • Open protects people. Your data doesn't die when a site does.
  • Open saves effort - when Apple built webkit, they set the seeds for Android, Chrome and the overthrow of Microsoft on the web


The IndieWeb is a group of people who recognise that the silos are important for connecting - but you should have your own site. Don't replace those tools, but use them to connect the rest of the web.

Its principles:

  • You should own your own data. Have your own page, not a Facebook or Google one.
  • You should have visible data. People can read it, programs can index it. You can't crawl Facebook or Twitter any more.
  • POSSE - Publish on your Own Site and Share Elsewhere. Spread links to your own stuff.
  • Make tools for you, not for other people. If you wouldn't use it, other people won't. Odeo was a classic example: a podcast platform built by people who didn't podcast
  • Document what you do. Say what works - help other people by doing so. And Open Source what you make, because you get help and it ensures that what you do will last.
  • Design and UX are really important. Don't just add them on top of what you've built.
  • Be modular. Don't try to build everything - build pieces that plug together. It makes it easier to swap things out, or replace dead services.
  • The Long Web - expect it to last, don't destroy history and spread copies elsewhere.
  • Bet on the web - open outlasts closed. Make infrastructure that others can build on.

Is France ready for start-ups?

Arnaud Montebourg

I'm not liveblogging this session, because I'm not well-versed enough in French politics to be confident of doing it justice. There's a fascinating battle breaking out on stage, though.

Arnaud Montebourg, Minister of Redressement Productif in France, is on stage trying to defend France's reputation for being hostile to start-ups. He's taking a robust approach to it: he's accused Loïc of being unFrench for thinking that "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité" should be updated. The example of Über keeps coming up - and the fact that France is moving to reduce its competitive example with the local taxi operators, by forcing Über cabs to wait a set amount of time. Plenty of people are arguing that defending existing businesses like this seems to be more important to the French than supporting new business.

He's arguing that you should target your innovation at creating new businesses and sectors and not disrupting existing businesses - and giving a clear warning that if you launch against existing businesses, they will be protected. It's a cultural thing, he suggests, in defending the right of people to make a living.

He describes it as a balanced approach. It's fairly clear that the room doesn't agree.

The VCs

And another issue has arisen: one questioner suggests that from tomorrow any French civil servant will be able to access his digital documents without reference to a judge. Montebourg fell back into French to deal with that. He seemed to be arguing that there were both protections in place, and new avenues for challenging the government on this.

But this clear picture to this Brit is that the tension between the French Government and the start-up community is high and not easing at all.

Fleur Pellerin

UPDATE: And now we get a completely different message from Fleur Pellerin, the Minister Delegate with responsibility for Small and Medium Enterprises, Innovation, and the Digital Economy.

She's trying to boost and support the venture capital industry in France - because she wants to make France the start-up centre of Europe.

You need to start in schools, she suggests, by helping children learn how to pitch and giving them the aspiration to try. France needs to work on the culture that you just become a salary man after business school - they need to stop the fear of failure stopping people becoming entrepreneurs. A very different set of messages from this morning's talk.

And she was surprisingly happy to let random audience members get on stage and ask her questions - and ask for money...

#leweb - Ramez Naam and our cyborg future

Ramez Naam

Liveblog of Ramez Naam talking at LeWeb Paris 2013

The coming cyborg

Invasive cyborg technology is coming - wired contact lens, the pill cam which travels through your intestines taking 30 FPS photos and sending them wirelessly. All of those are awesome - but what happens when we network the human brain.

The number one subject we want to get more data about is the human body and brain. Cochlear implants can give people hearing who have never had that ability in their life. The first and foremost motivation for these technologies is medical.

We've made process on sight. 10 years ago a man who had lost both eyes in accidents had CCDs attached to glasses which attached to his brain via a jack in his skull. It was terrible vision - low res black and white. Systems now allow the paralysed to start controlling robotic arms.

Brain monitors can now make a reasonable guess of what you're looking at by recreating the image from brain activity. A hippocampus chip can help restore the ability to form new memories for those who have lost it. It's in rat trails at the moment, and moving to human trials next year.

Cyborg monkey IQ tests

Scientists have trained rhesus monkeys to do IQ tests. They they cripple their cognitive ability by giving them cocaine - and use to chip to intervene and see if they can restore performance. They can. In fact, they improve it. Monkey-to-monkey telepathy has been technologically generated using brain electrode in defence-funded research. Two researchers have played a computer game as a single player using electrical signals transferred between them.

There are barriers:

  • Health worries of elective surgery
  • Computer crashing...
  • Malware in your brain
  • The NSA in your brain

That said, he's optimistic about this. We are the communication species. That's what makes us special. We invent more and more communication technology, and it follows a predictable path. New technology - like printing - improves idea exchange, creates business opportunities, but also accelerates artistic and cultural development, because people can be exposed to more ideas.

What change could networked brains bring?

December 11, 2013

#leweb - Should we innovate or disrupt?

Brian Solis

Liveblog of Brian Solis talking at LeWeb Paris 2013

The next 10 years are either going to happen to us, or because of us. Disruption isn't what we set out to do - it arises because of what we do. Innovation introduces us to something, disruption is what changes our life. Constant racing for innovation might not be as valuable as we think.

Applying design thinking or systems thinking identifies the problem, and brings solutions to life. Visions is powerful. It benefits from empathy. It can disrupt markets.

We are beaming more connected - we're becoming Generation C. Teenagers can only concentrate on homework for six minutes before they turn to a device or social network. People take selfies in front of a suicide. How do you inspire empathy in these people? Can we avoid just feeding this ecosystem.

Über was inspired by a bad, snoy day in Paris. Now, all over the US< governments are trying to get it shut down. You know you're creating disruption when that happens.

Do you want to be the first to market - or the second mouse? The second mouse gets the cheese in the mousetrap?

Sliced bread was a platform - it created a market for things to go on it, or between it. Second movers in a market often amke the most money from it - as long as they learn from the first mover. The best innovators do their homework. They don't believe they were the only people with the idea...

Apple takes a design-thinking approach to the market. That's why no-one in the audience has the Galaxy Gear watch - but the majority would buy an Apple watch.

Square was inspired by a glassblower's inability to take credit cards. Twitter changed news - news doesn't break, it tweets. Instagram moments replaced Kodak moments.

People talk about what they do, and they how they do it. Few talk about why they do it. If you start with "why", you're already empathetic in your approach.

This is how you do it:

  • Empathy - identify the problem
  • Context - understand its context
  • Creativity - come up with many solutions
  • Rationality - apply logic to figure out what to do next.

Then you build your business on these three pillars:

  • Vision
  • Knowledge
  • Resources

Google published its Eight Pillars of Innovation. It breaks down how the company promotes innovation.

There are pillars of failure, too: belief that you can't fail, and poor people around you. Bad habits or misconceptions can ruin you. Failing to recognise that being a platform can be the critical element is another big one.

#leweb - Go wide, not deep says Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk

Allegedly Gary Vaynerchuk hadn't slept for two days before his talk at LeWeb. I well believe it given how rambling it was. This isn't a conventional chronological liveblog, as I've tried to gather together his thoughts into subject groups...

Go deep not wide

Everyone cares about dumb fucking data. It doesn't matter how many followers you have - it's how many that care.

If the founders of are watching: fuck you. He bought an ad from them on an e-mail newsletter that went to 2m people. He got one order. Breadth doesn't matter - depth does. Worry about open rates, about clicks.

The Secret of Snapchat

What snapchat is not about is impressions, it's about attention. Whatever you do, the number one thing you have to do is tell your story to someone on the path of making a decision. To do that, you need to get their attention.

Gary can't make something trend on Twitter any more. But he can on Snapchat - by sending thousands of message on Snapchat, by hand. He does wonder if they have any good product people left, based on how shit the last update was. Still, many of the recipients then posted the photo he sent to Twitter with the hashtag he asked them to use.

He thinks Snapchat will go one to many eventually - especially if they want to monetise. They tried with Stories - but it's shit with a shit UI. No-one has figures out how to monetise one to one yet. There might be a $20 a year app that's one to one that might work because it's such a great experience.

Snapchat is a utility to get someone's attention in a very noisy world.

The Agency Dictator

He's built an agency from 20 people to 300 in the past two years. He has no HR manager - he instills the culture through dictatorship, and choosing the hiring. They've fired some talented people because they weren't wiling to be the culture fit he needs.

The entrepreneurship bubble

Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur now. The number of Ivy League students I see thinking they're entrepreneurs, then see them crumple the first taste of adversity they get. For every Instagram, there's 5 million Instashits. We're not in a financial bubble. This is not a cycle - this is the beginning of technology eating everything in our lives. But there is a bubble of entrepreneurship.

Living in a social era

He lives his life as if he's on the record all the time. That's a decision he made the moment he had a measure of internet fame. It changes how you behave - and more people are going to think that way. We all under-estimate how much the world is actually going to change. We'll all be flabbergasted by what it becomes in the next 15 years.

The Big Social Mistakes

People use social wrong - they blast out links to elsewhere. Do your storytelling on social media. Look at the 10 hashtags that are trending and being creative around that- it's 7000% better than truing to create your own. A woman on Pinterest has an intent or an openness to buy. On Facebook she's looking to be informed. Don't give her the same photo in bot places. Stop linking your Twitter and Facebook. It doesn't fucking work.

The stream on Twitter has become so busy that people miss things. You shouldn't worry about tweeting things more than once. If you put out quality content, people will be less worried by it than seeing 10 pieces of crap content from someone else. People need escapism and entertainment. The things on the front page of your phone are the single biggest gateway to the psychology of out society.

Other stuff

  • He's a big believer in free: give, give, give and then you earn the right to ask for something.

  • 90% of people who speak give the same presentation for three years. He'd rather do all Q&As

  • If we went in a time machine and showed people bottled water - and that people paid for it, they wouldn't believe it. It took packaging and storytelling. If you can do that with water, you can do it for anything.

#leweb - The internet of the future, and how to make money from it

George Colony

Liveblog of George Colony, Chairman of the Board & CEO, Forrester Research talking at LeWeb 2013

The age of the customer

We're in a 20-year business cycle in which successful businesses will reinvent themselves to serve ever more powerful customers.

  • Customers can price more accurately
  • They can share critiques - he had cockroaches in his hotel bathroom this morning - but unlike most people, didn't immediately share this on the web.
  • They can buy from anyone everywhere.

In 2012, 60% of air tickets were bought online - and as that's grown, the revenue per customer mile has dropped. People's decisions are being increasingly influenced by online reviews. 22% of European buyers have bought from websites outside their own country.

There are big differences between generations.

Compared to Gen X, Gen Y:

  • watches 21% less TV
  • listens to 27% less radio
  • plays 319% more video games
  • spends 24% more time on the internet
  • spend 158% less time on newspapers

Gen Z will be as much of a change again.

The mobile mindset shift

There's a mobile mindshift going on. They mobile generation expect to be able to access any information they need via mobile devices whenever they want.

Windows Phone Users are the least mindset shifted, the iPhone users the most. The Asia Pacific region has the most mind-shifted customers.

In the future companies will put themselves into the pockets, backpacks or briefcases of their customers. The web will become the AM radio of the internet, there, but not the primary service people used - the majority of businesses will engage via mobile devices.

George paid for his taxi ride via his phone. He tipped the driver via his phone. is phone told us which terminal to go to at the airport, which gate to go to. It showed him to his seat, offered him his favourite drink. It told the elevator which floor to go to, and opened his hotel door for him. OK. that didn't happen. But it will do: that's the opportunity.

How do you do this? Mix sensor information from your device, with social recommendations, with interaction with smart products. Systems of record - customer information and the like - will have to become systems of engagement. They need to run fast enough to provide services in real time - or in an anticipatory manner. We need geolocation and payment services, and all of this needs to feed into big customer data. Then, you can deliver that vision.

If you want to make money - get into that process.

#leweb - Tony Fadell's Nest is reinventing the home

Tony Fadell

Liveblog of Tony Fadell interview at LeWeb Paris 2013

Making the boring fascinating

Nest is all about creating and reinnovating unloved products in the home. There are many products that we grew up with that are still exactly the same. The TV and telephone are completely different. Other things? They haven't changed. We're going to reinvent those products and create experiences we've never had before. These are things we have to have - why can't we love them as well.

They have to be highly differentiated from what you have today. You have to look at the technology - how can you change the experience when the cellphone is with you at all times. How does your person change? How does you home change? How does your car change?

The market's we're going after are monopoly or duopoloy markets. We're being sued by companies who don't like some little upstart company coming in and challenging them. If you can't innovate, litigate. If any start-up is truly going to disrupt a revenue stream, then patents or weird things are going to be thrown at you. They will throw everything under the sun at you. Look at customer reviews - we've been able to trace poor reviews back to plants for competitors. Our general counsel was the chief intellectual property officer for Apple for a decade. he and I got sued every year. It's great having him in the team.

It's all very well building one product and kickstarting it, but mass manufacturing and defending yourself is a whole other thing. We have hundreds of patents filed or pending. You need that.

Nest Protect is a highly differentiated product. The tech set learn about those products - and that's great. But it's a mass market product, and most people don't think about these sorts of products. You need disruptive marketing to makes sure they see it the way they do smartphones or other consumer products.

Security and Privacy

I was in John Lewis the other day. There was Nest Protect next to a gorgeous 4K display. I though "Yes! We've made it." France is mandating smoke detectors in the home - we're in the right place at the right time.

Yes, hacking is in our thoughts. When you're talking about the home, these are very private things. We thought about what people could do if they got access to your data. We have bank-level security, we encrypt updates, and we have an internal hacker team testing the security. It's very, very private and it has to be, because it'll never take off if people don't trust it.

In this connected world you can use it to take care of your kids - or your parents in a different house. From anywhere in the world you can see what's happening in your house. You can make sure you use less energy because you can control the thermostat in your hand.

Our customers interact with their devices all the time - they don't just put them on the wall and never think about them again. There are 96 countries where there are Nest Thermostats and we don't explicitly sell to them. With Nest Protect - it's 40 in nine days.

There are 10,000 applicants now to use their API. There are lots of things we're not going to be able to build. We'd love to work with other people who will do those

December 10, 2013

#leweb - What will Bitcoin mean for you?

James Currier

The Panel

  • Moderator: James Currier Co-Founder, Ooga Labs & Curator of the NFX Conference for network effect businesses
  • Garrick Hileman, Economic Historian, London School of Economics
  • Shakil Khan, Spotify

A potted history of Bitcoin

3000 years ago, people used gold and silver as currency. It was useful for both exchange of value and storage of value. Printing brought us whole load of money-creating entities. There were hundreds in the Us. In 1873 they created the federal currency. In 1971 the US left the gold standard.

Digital currency arguably started with frequent flyer points in 1972. The 1990s saw various attempts to do central digital currencies. In 2002 we had Linden Dollars and QCoins. QCoins got banned - but Linden Dollars were tradable with real currency. Facebook tried Facebook credits - only lasted 3 years.

The same year as Facebook Credits launched - 2009 - Bitcoin arrived. It was distributed and programmable. It's also been driven by a community groundswell. Now, an ecosystem of bitcoin-centrtic companies are growing. Oh, and it's anonymous.

China and the US have both given signals that they see it as an interesting currency. There are currently 12 million of the 21 million there will ever be. There are about 1000 places you can spend it.


Shakil Khan

What are we going to be doing with bitcoin? Shakil thinks we'll see the Western Union remittance model challenged. Money transfer costs around 20% now. Overseas trading is another opportunity, as you could ease credit card transaction fees. Those two alone account for billions of dollars in financial movements.

Garrick: Bitcoin is not alone in terms of currency fluctuation. We might seen countries switching to bitcoin to protect safe value. Right now, it's primarily a financial asset - a store of value, rather than a transaction currency.

Shakil: We're seeing online companies like WordPress starting to accept it. When a big name company does it, we'll see it more widely recognised.

James: The rules aren't clear yet. Companies aren't clear on how they'll manage bitcoin, how it interfaces with their existing finical systems.

Shakil: People move on the tangibility. How many people miss the cupboard full of DVDs when they're watching Netflix? Starbucks has people paying for coffee from their phone. There's a lot more to this system than you can learn in a few hours on the web. An analyst that just got into this two weeks ago and has written a report is misleading her clients.Governments could be allies or enemies. There are plenty of archaic or broken financial systems that will se this as a threat. But if people accept that music and movies are played over the cloud, then will they accept virtual currency rather than a piggy bank? Do governments want to embrace this? Absolutely.

Garrick Hileman

Garrick: Consumers and businesses looking to save money will be allies. Bitcoin flattens the three changes you need sometimes to transfer money. The enemies are likely to be Visa, Matercard and Western Union, who hold the keys to the current payment systems.

Shakil: It's obvious that there's a need for something like bitcoin - but who knows what it will end up being. Right now it looks like bitcoin will be the winner. This is so fast-moving that any predictions are irrelevant.

Garrick: Throughout history there has been plenty of room of alternative currencies - but bitcoin has a long, hard battle to fight.

#leweb - Merging the company and the crowd

Jeremiah Owyang

Live blog of Jeremiah Owyang, Chief Catalyst & Founder, Crowd Companies at LeWeb 2013

We've moving on from the democratisation of media - social media - to people using these same tools to get what they want in the physical world. It's the collaborative age. Six months ago, in London, LeWeb focused on the sharing economy. People are empowered to get the physical world from each other.

Things have accelerated in that six months. HP is joining the 3D printing market. Uber raised $258m from Google. The faster these things change, the harder it is for big companies to adapt. The lifespan of big companies is decreasing - this is why.

Corporations need to make the crowd part of the company. GE partners with Quirky to enable crowd innovation. You can crowdfund a U-Haul truck, through U-Notes. Why does the company do it? It creates a shared fate. If they invest in you, they'll buy from you. It's the highest form of loyalty.

A community of makers called Custom Made will create jewellery for you to match your (high-end) car.

1. Seek Purposeful Profit

Corporations in the US are bound by law to maximise shareholder profit. Senior executives see profit as the main objective of a business. Millennials say it's societal development.

Toyota has the 100 Cars for Good programme, which gives cars to non-profits. Toms - a shoe company - launched a marketplace where they sell other people's products. Brands are launching marketplaces for social good, rather than just selling their won products.

2. Maximising Resources

B&Q launched Streetclub - which enables local community sharing. Trunk Club is an internet stylist on demand. Four men style you a trunk of clothes based on your style and your measurements, and you chose to keep what you like - and then pay for it, all from the luxury of your own home. Marriott is offering Workspring - workplaces on demand.

3. Harness Crowd Innovation

Companies are struggling to find new ideas internally. 78% of companies are now focusing on looking to the outside world for their ideas. The success rates are wildly variable - but the desire is there. Nordstrom is using Etsy as a wholesale buyer. Nokia released plans for its phone cases as 3D printer files. You can design and print your own phone cases.

So, how do you be resilient as a big company? Collaborate with the outside world.

Crowd Companies is a trade council to allow big corporations to come together and learn from experts and each other about this. There's a (hand=picked) innovation network of startups who will get to pitch to them for free. Here's Jeremiah's post announcing the new company.

Final thoughts

  1. The physical world is becoming democratised
  2. People are empowered to make physical goods and share them
  3. Big companies need to use these same exact strategies to keep relevance
  4. The companies with partnerships with empowered people will become resilient
  5. The crowd and the company will become one


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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Le Web category.

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