The morning sessions started off fairly slow, with Scott Rafer of MyBlogLog fame explaining some basic housekeeping things, such as access to Wi-Fi as well as how the day was planned to look like. Rafer also extended an invitation to the audience to take over his moderator job for the “The Next Web” awards show, which was to be held after the “The Next Web Dinner”.
While one might think that this was done to save the cost of an additional moderator, I found it a nice move on Boris’ part, simply because one doesn’t get the chance to hand out an award to the big (or small) players out there every day.
From the, probably 150 people who attended the dinner / awards show, only a dozen actually dared to pitch themselves and naturally, I had to be part of that group. In the end, the CEO from Zyb.com got the part and did a great job in handing out the awards.
After a short introduction from Rafer, Saul Klein kicked off the morning sessions with his talks about the how, why and whats of why Silicon Valley is so much more successful than Europe and how that specific geographical area seems to be a melting pot for intelligent and daring people both from the tech world as well as from the capitalists world.
What I liked most about Klein’s keynote was that he managed to put the finger where it hurts. His speech detailed what exactly was wrong with Europe and the European way of thinking and, indirectly invited us to dare more.
It is interesting to hear that Europe, as far as talent goes, is more than capable of matching the US, but as far as actually doing it, we still appear to be stuck in the past. I guess it’s time to get out there and start kicking some serious butt with great, workable ideas and show those Americans that the “old World” can impress too.
Next up was Jeff Clavier, of SoftTech VC, a French Venture Capitalist and also part of “The Grumpy Old Men” duo. More on that later though.
Clavier’s talk linked up very well with Klein’s topics, mostly because Clavier was able to provide some more insight into the changes that happened since the pre Web 2.0 era of 2004 and the situation as it is now.
He highlighted the fact that, while it was easy in 2004 to hire good talent, the stakes have been upped severely and that the current hiring process would be a lot more expensive to employers.
While this is bad news for one side, it’s great news for those developers, designers and conceptualists out there. It appears as if, finally, the world is beginning to understand the market value of this group of people.
Clavier concluded his speech with some great advice on what European entrepreneurs should and shouldn’t do. Even though the whole set of guidelines was great, the one that made me think the most was:
Out-innovate, go for the throat, forget knock-offs
And he couldn’t be more right. Europe, especially the Netherlands has seen at least two digg clones since the beginning of 2007 and people are starting to get fed up with it.
According to Clavier, those are the businesses that are doomed to fail or keep going on life-support because they don’t bring any innovation into the game.
All in all, Clavier made some very valid points and he might actually be the first French guy that I like.
After all that talking about financial capital, Deborah Schultz provided the audience with a different topic: relationships or emotional capital.
Schultz, of Six Apart fame, talked about the do’s and don’ts of customer support as well as how building relationships is much more important that generating transactions.
Mixed with an example from her time at Six Apart, I found her talk the most touching of the morning sessions, simply because she decided to stray from all the technological and technical stuff and talk about the one core value most people forget about: people
Schultz concluded her talk with some information on what a weaver is and why everyone of us should become one. She highlighted the main skills of weavers, such as being a listener as well as being a connector and showed us how this skill set would empower us to create better, healthier relationships.
After Schultz’s inspiring talk, Tapan Bath, VP of Front Doors at Yahoo! posed the question if the next web really should be considered a web at all. Bath shared his story with the audience and gave some guidelines as to how Yahoo! plans on monetizing the “next web”.
It is interesting to see that Yahoo! chooses to start out with the four Ps of marketing (placement, price, product, promotion) and extend the set with one very important other value: personalization. Yahoo!, for those who didn’t know still hold the title of “most visited personalized start page on the Internet”.
Bath also offered some insight into how Yahoo! views the web and advised people, albeit indirectly, to pay more attention to the most important factor of your application: the user. Bath thinks that the next web will be built around people. Funnily enough, I came to more or less the same conclusion in an interview at “The Next Web 2006”, so I guess that Bath is right ;-)
With the exception of the startups, which will be discussed later on, this more or less concludes the morning sessions.