Did I just see Loic in Waterskis?

By Conor O'Neill | December 13, 2006

I’m afraid this post is in the same tone as most of the others I’ve read about Le Web 3 – the shark was truly jumped. Did my attendance fee pay for the security for Shimon Peres and the French presidential candidates? Was I at Le Web or Les Grands Buddies de Loic?

Whilst the lack of functioning wifi was deeply annoying for attendees and was a PR disaster for Orange, it was completely unacceptable and frankly amateurish for them not to have dedicated bandwidth for the startup room. The inability of Web-based startups to show their products live at Le Web was laughable and the shrug-attitude of the organisers about this must have been horribly frustrating for those who put all that effort into their preparation.

The people networking opportunities were excellent and I was thrilled to finally put some faces to names. Whilst the party was fun, the deafening noise made further networking almost impossible and we just relaxed for the night and had a good laugh. Myself and Walter were in awe of the guy smoking a pipe in a nightclub – that’s an independent thinker!

I did demo our app to a few interested people and the feedback was excellent. Some good tough questions which are going to help us get to release in better shape. One amusing comment I got from a VC was that we should merge with “X” and we’d end up with the perfect product and revenue model. I think we’re perfect without a merger 🙂 Application stability during the demos was great and I’m hugely grateful to the work done by both the developer and the designer in getting it all together in time. I now regret not signing up for the start-up room as I felt that our business plan and application were easily the match of any I saw over the two days.

Sadly, I found most of the panels mind-numbingly boring with just groups of buddies sitting in their slippers with mugs of cocoa coming out with bland uncontroversial gap fillers. They really should have had someone like Canter as a moderator to shake them out of their stupor. I don’t believe I learned one new thing from any of them.

I had really been looking forward to Dave Sifry from Technorati and when his presentation just consisted of his last state of the blogosphere post, I was desperately disappointed. He and most of the others lacked that critical ingredient of any compelling presentation – passion! I saw a spark from Dave when Tom Morris asked him about microformats (and thanks to Dave for inadvertently describing our business) and again when the ICQ guy challenged him about categorisation of blogs (a really bad idea). But that was it.

For this reason, the highlight of the event was clearly Hans Rosling, Professor of International Health at the Karolinska Institutet. It was simply the most deeply interesting, informative, challenging and exciting presentation I have ever seen at a conference. On top of that, the data manipulation software he used to highlight his points was stunning in its ability to display large amounts of spatial and temporal data in a simple way.

The treatment of both Snipperoo and Anthony Zanetti regarding the startup room was shameful and in particular I think Anthony is owed an apology for the complete lack of any response from the organisers and the deletion of his comment about this from the site.

The trip cost us well over €1000 in total and I had thought long and hard about whether to go or not. The pre-coverage we received and the people we met made it worthwhile but I’ll be making damn sure Ryan is going to avoid all the mistakes of Le Web before I definitely head to FOWA. Maybe he could bring in John Prescott to dazzle us with his repartee?

Loic’s chums delayed the event so much on Tuesday that I hung on too late to see some of the start-ups and missed my flight. Whilst the extra cost involved probably wouldn’t cover the cost of a bottle of Cristal for Sarkozy, it really hurts a self-funded startup like us. But then I can hardly ask for a refund, can I?

The food was extremely good, the people friendly and the venue decent but I don’t think we’ll be seeing Le Web 4. If we do, it’ll be a French attendee only event. A little less time power-brokering and a little more time focusing on the basics would have transformed the two days. A good list of links to other unhappy people ici.

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