20 things I learnt from Le Web 3.0 in Paris: VCs aren't spending, everyone has a video site and no one loves Facebook anymore



If you have been lurking about on Techdigest in the last week or so you’ll know that a few of us have been in Paris at the Le Web 3.0 show. It is the one time of the year when a small part of the French capital morphs into a mini Silicon Valley with lots of entrepreneurs, VCs, web gurus, bloggers and assorted hangers on listening to key note speeches from internet superstars and networking like crazy over radioactive coffee.

Of course it was great fun, but did we learn anything? Well none of the team left Paris feeling like they knew where the web, media or anything else for that matter was really going. Nevertheless though here are a few things that picked up at Le Web 3.0

1 Brits aren’t that interested in web 2.0 – Sure London finest internet companies turned up for the show, but you know what, Joost, Last FM, Webjam, Trusted Places aren’t actually run by Brits. Even at the Start Up competition the entrepreneurs were much more likely to come from Eastern Europe, Italy or Scandinavia than they were to come from the UK. Also notably absent was the UK media. Good to see the Guardian and the BBC reporting from the exhibition as well as the TechCrunch UK crew, but that was about it.

2 Women don’t do web 2.0 events either – Perhaps the most depressing part of the whole event was the huge male bias. 80-90% of the speakers were male and probably around 75% of the delegates. There are lots of women running internet companies but very few of them seemed to fancy the trip to Paris.

3 If you are a big web 2.0 celeb it is essential that you have your own video start up – Digg’s Kevin Rose has one, conference organiser Loic Le Meur has one, the Skype team also has one. Some like Joost are grabbing TV content and taking it online, others like Seesmic are almost a visual version of Twitter. The future of the web clearly is video.

4 However no one still knows how to monetise video content – One day there will be a serious shift of video related advertising from TV to the web. That day will probably come when a large number of people use PVRs (Sky+, TiVo etc) and never bother to watch an ad. However it could be three/four years away in Europe. The trick for the video start up is to keep going grabbing whatever ads they can and hoping they are still in business when the serious ad spend begins.

5 If you are an entrepreneur with a great web idea it is still hard to find investment – Sure the halls were crawling with VCs but they seemed to be keeping their hands firmly in their pockets. One told me that the VC community had invested a lot of money earlier in the year and were now more interested in ensuring those companies blossomed rather than taking on new ones. To underline the point VC Simon Levene of Accel said from the stage that of 250 pitches he gives 249 a straight no.

6 Even if you get your funding there’s obviously no guarantee of success – Well I knew this before, but here hasn’t really been that many high profile web 2.0 flops. We are still waiting for the web 2.0 version of Boo. However Levene added that of the companies they invested in a third would fail, another third would give the investor a small return on their investment and only about 10% would rake in serious cash.

7 The hottest start ups are doing wacky things with still images – The best start up online businesses are based around delivering a solution to a problem. One huge problem is storing, manipulating and editing still images online and there were some interesting solutions to this delivered by cool start ups like Zoomorama.

8 There’s still a lot of money being spent on developing mobile applications – I particularly liked Goojet which won the Start Up competition and Floobs which allows you to stream live video to the web from your mobile.

9 Facebook is becoming a dirty word among Geeks – Maybe it is jealousy, or the fear that the site will hoover up all the ad money, but any delegates who run a web 2.0 business felt obliged to have a pop at the all conquering social networking site and its rather controversial Beacon ad system. Maybe taking down your Facebook profile is the 2007 version of chaining yourself to the railings or burning your bra.

10 But Twitter is still big news – Le Web 3.0 was one long Twitter fest. From chomping on chocolate muffins through to toilet breaks all were documented on micro blogging sites and mobile phones.

11 Jason Calacanis thinks he should receive more respect from the European web 2.0 community – The founder of Weblogs Inc and more recently the human powered search engine Mahalo, was overheard moaning that us Europeans don’t give him the credit he deserves for being a web 2.0 pioneer. I know someone who loves you Jason.

12 However Mahalo is starting to sound like a good idea – Calacanis’ premise is that the big search engines are delivering poor quality results (affiliate ad sites, spammers etc). With Mahalo you get only the best sites chosen by humans. Very few people, other than Calacanis, have been talking about the poor quality of search engine results and if Mahalo gives the big ones a serious kick up the jacksy then it will have proved very useful.

13 Pigeons are faster at delivering data than broadband – for more proof check here.

14 One time Microsoft uber-blogger Robert Scoble uses a, wait for it, Mac Powerbook now – Bet his old chums aren’t happy with this. Anyhow he was using one on the stage to discover what Techcrunch were saying about his big money transfer between video sites.

15 Second life? What’s that? – Last year all the talk was of the virtual world. Now everyone seems virtually bored of it. That hasn’t stopped a lot of interesting new online games sites emerging like erepublik.

16 Andrew Keen and Emily Bell should do pantomime – Keen is the author of a wicked, wicked book called The Cult of the Amateur. It is basically one of those ‘everything is shit and we are going to die’ type books this time about the internet. Keen argues that the democratisation of media (stay with me) with kids able to create and upload video, music, blogs etc is killing our culture. Emily Bell is head honcho of The Guardian’s online offering and is not only one of the most eloquent spokespeople on new media, but also a firm believer that the user created content is enriching media. They had a little on stage (though very staged) argument that was terrifically entertaining. However given the amount of booing and hissing and ‘oh no it is/oh no it isn’t’ is probably worthy of a run at the Hackney Empire. If only Emily had said ‘Andrew, your book career – it is behind you’ she would have brought the house down.

17 – The guy from Lastminute wants to decorate your house – Brent Hoberman is about to launch a new site called Mydeco which enables users to work out how to design their home using a virtual design service, discuss with others, and find the best places to buy products. However not everyone likes the idea.

18 Katie Lee is a fine live blogger – check this

19 No one is talking about social networks in vertical channels any more – last year all the cool business plans were based around creating a social network around a passion centre (sport, movies etc). It seems that Facebook’s success and the fact we all have our own little groups has killed that one. Which is a bit of a shamed as there are some very good new-ish ones such as movie site Flixter and our very own osoyou.com

20 There is no way for record companies, or anyone for that matter, to make money out of online music – I didn’t catch any music based start ups, or talk to an VCs or bloggers who had any great disruptive money making schemes. Maybe the music industry really is knackered.

Check out our other posts from the show in the Le Web 3 category.

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