This article is about my experience at LeWeb and the range of emotions I felt there as an entrepreneur who has invested all the money I have into my own Internet start-up which is yet to make a profit. There were a lot of things that were sweet but also something that left me with a slight bitter taste. I started with high hopes, then taking the rose tinted glasses off and having doubts about the wisdom of what I’m doing, feeling a bit let down until my spirit was re-invigorated by a raw and inspirational talk by one of the LeWeb speakers.
It was a big week for my company’s websites. My whole team have worked really hard over the last year to create them and we had the honour to be invited by PayPal to demonstrate our http://www.tcbooker.com website, a market place for training courses in the UK, which uses PayPal’s new Adaptive Payments API on their stand at LeWeb..(we’re using Chained Payments if anyone is interested!).
The first thing to mention is how many big name personalities and companies there were at the event. It was opened with a ‘Fireside chat’ with Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter. Here is a guy who’s service is currently changing the world and is what every aspiring tech entrepreneur wants to be. He talked about how he created the first version of Twitter back in 2000 using an email dropbox to get messages to the service but he was the only person in the world using it and his friends thought he was nuts. It wasn’t until many years later with mobile phone SMS becoming popular that the same idea was re-visited and Twitter was born. His advice was if you believe in the idea then you should just keep going, even if your friends think you are nuts. I was feeling inspired at this point.
The venue was packed and there were lots of big names in the tech world there to speak and present their wares. I was fortunate to dine with the ‘uber blogger’ Om Malik the night before the event which was fantastic. There was a start-up competition with a number of start-ups pitching for investment. Cloudsplit was of particular interest to me as it allows real-time usage monitoring of Amazon Web Services, which is something my website use. It was really interesting speaking to Joe about it and I can definitely see why it would be useful. We talked about the pro’s and con’s of AWS and Microsoft Azure like proper techies. Just as I said goodbye and walked off I heard Joe half joke to the next person he spoke to ‘I was hoping you were going to offer me some investment’. I felt a little un-nerved, here was a start-up with a great product, who had been selected above many other companies, to come to the final at LeWeb for funding but still seemed worried about securing its future. I started thinking about the future of my company which will need some funding soon, if I don’t get it, what then?, will I loose everything I have put into it?
On the way back to ‘man the stand’ and demo PayPal’s adaptive payments in action in my website I decided to drop into the Microsoft Bizspark booth which was in the next room. As one of the very earliest members of the Microsoft Bizspark programme I was interested to meet the people running it. It has been vey useful to be given licences for all Microsoft products for my business but that is about the most I have managed to get out of the scheme so far. I was introduced to the person responsible for Bizspark UK, unfortunately they were in the middle of writing an e-mail but would pop by to see my demo and learn a little more about what I am up to when that was finished. I felt pleased I was going to have the opportunity to show off all the hard work of the last year.
Back on the PayPal stand I was doing a brisk trade of demo’s of how to pay for courses on http://www.tcbooker.com and explaining the legal, financial and time benefits I get by using PayPal’s adaptive payments. Heather Taylor from PayPal interviewed me and also recorded a demo of the website, these have been uploaded to YouTube and will be published on the PayPal Talk website. I was also introduced to Osama Bedier, Vice President of PayPal Platform, who had flown in from ‘The Bay’. He took a real interest in how I had implemented the new PayPal API and as well as taking interest in my Skillbook idea. This enables people to upload electronic files (pictures of certificate, video’s of job references etc) to prove they have the skills they say they have and publish them in a Skillbook. Osama said ‘every CV should have a Skillbook to back it up’ what was a fantastic endorsement. I felt great, I felt our hard work was appreciated and an important tech person saw value in it.
Later in the afternoon I went and watched ‘Best of Europe Roundtable’. He were some of the most successful tech people in Europe and the companies they have founded are worth 100’s of millions of Euros each. it was interesting to hear their thoughts on why America dominates tech and how it is much more difficult to succeed in Europe because of things like cultural differences and laws making it risky for Entrepreneurs to take a risk with a start-up. This made me feel a little cautious but please to see 100’s of millions of Euros out their for the taking. I did wonder if I would find it easier if I was in America though.
On Day 2 I attended some interesting talks in the morning, I was particularly interested in Jeremiah Owyang’s talk about “When Real-Time Isn’t Fast Enough’. Osama Bedier from PayPal was interviewed on stage by Om Malik, Osama went into a good amount of detail about how PayPal are looking to support and encourage developers to use the PayPal API’s to help move people from paper money to digital money. He alluded to enabling people being able to pay just $0.10 cents at a time on the web, this has got me wondering what announcements PayPal will make in 2010 to make this happen. A big part of PayPal’s developer engagement the the creation of the www.x.com website. This website is building a developer community to help share ideas, experiences and best practice in a way us techies like it, probably because it is run by techies. I truly believe that PayPal are committed to engaging developers as this has been consistently proved by their actions in the last year and I am please to be able to work with them.“
Every CV should have a Skillbook to back it up” – Osama Bedier, Vice President of PayPal Platform and Emerging Technology
As LeWeb drew to a close people started heading home, Osama came and personally said goodbye, thanked me for coming and wished me luck with everything, that felt great. I said bye to the PayPal UK contingent as they headed home, they had all been great and I had enjoyed their company. Special thanks to John Lunn for inviting me along. I decided to go as well, I noticed the person at the Bizspark stand writing another email as I left, they hadn’t come an seen what I had been up to and had managed to get a stand at LeWeb, even though I had bumped into them a few times during the event and the promise to come over was repeated. I had got the picture of where I ranked in their priorities, which left a slightly bitter taste. I have not had the best Bizspark experience in the last year, a cancelled event with a promises of notification when it was re-scheduled which never came only to discover it had been re-scheduled any no one had told me, an un-answered email a few months back and just a general feeling of not being involved and important to them. Bizspark is a great program but to get the most out of it I think you need to know how to play the game and I haven’t learnt the rules yet. This unfortunately put me on a bit of a down as I left.
Just as I was leaving on a bit of a low, a guy I didn’t know, Gary Vaynerchuk, was going on the main stage, for some reason I decided to stay and listen to him talk. I loved this guy, and I felt out of all the speakers I saw he was the one that gave the most relevant advice. He said that was hard building a new business and that people have become soft and expected things to be given to them. If you want to succeed you should put the hours in and work hard and things will eventually happen. This struck a chord with me, I have worked hard the last year and had made it to a stand at LeWeb. I should not be disheartened that one person on the Bizspark programme hasn’t helped as much as I would have liked, I should make my own luck and be building my own business. I have to keep to my plan and keep up my work ethic, I left feeling like I had fire in my belly and was up for the challenge to succeed.
It was a great experience and it was great to be there. I wish there had been more opportunities to network, perhaps some king of speed networking event on the first day. However I did meet some great people and got some good advice which is helping me decide what to do with my business going into 2010. It was good to hear other peoples experiences but the reality is it will boil down to putting more hard work in. I would love to do it again and it has got me fired up for pushing my business forward!