There is a digital battle brewing across Europe - a battle to generate interest and understanding of the Internet and its greater impact on society.
LeWeb3 is Europe's forum where the people who are engaged in this effort - Web innovators, entrepreneurs and bloggers - gather to discuss trends, debate issues and decide where the market needs to go next. Last year's crowd included 1300 delegates from 37 countries. In 2007 we anticipate 2000 people and hope to expand our reach around the globe as well.
A mission: grow the european Internet sector
When this conference began in 2004, Europe's innovation ecosystem was very disjointed. Geography, culture and technological limitations created an environment that lacked a cohesive vision or common principals. Over the last several years, the region has evolved, and while we do not yet have the Silicon Valley ecosystem, we are moving forward. At LeWeb3 2006, we began moving the conversation further by opening an exchange with politicians. This is a start. We need to talk to them and they need to understand us. Looking ahead we must continue to push the envelope. We need to encourage risk taking in Europe, teach entrepreneurship at school, make fiscal reforms to encourage creation of more start ups supported by investment from business angels and venture capitalists. The Internet creates millions of jobs in the United States. Why not in Europe?
The gathering of influencers at LeWeb3 creates an environment for impact - companies finding funding, key partnerships, great visibility. In the early editions of LeWeb3 Netvibes and Daily Motion found their first angel investors and key partners. By LeWeb3 2006, they were on stage making the news and going international. Tens of startups concluded strategic partnerships, got funding or even got sold following LeWeb forums. And the roster of speakers during this conference's short history is impressive. In the last three years speakers have included world leaders such as Shimon Peres and Nicholas Sarkozy; and globally recognized authors, bloggers and entrepreneurs such as Jason Calacanis, Joi Ito, Doc Searls, Yat Siu and Yossi Vardi.
The idea for LeWeb3 began in March 2004 when Loic Le Meur and Six Apart, launched the first version of the event under the name LesBlogs. The idea was simple: get the most influential bloggers into one room. In the first year, 250 bloggers from more than 15 Countries joined the event at the French Senate in Paris.
The first edition, in March 2005
The second edition in December 2005, called LesBlogs2, gathered about 500 participants from 25 Countries, mostly European. The program covered topics bloggers were focusing on at that time: how is blogging affecting corporations; citizen journalism; how blogs influence politics; blogs and education; as well as key technologies for bloggers such as: RSS, podcasting and search. The growth in year two required and received financial support from sponsors such as Six Apart, Edelman, Microsoft, Nokia, Vpod, Fon, Skype, Bullguard, Hubert Burda Media and also some media sponsors such as top French radio Europe1 and the International Herald Tribune.
The event turned into a unique entrepreneurial gathering, with hundreds of Internet startups on stage and in the rooms as well as venture capitalists. The 2006 edition was also the launch of the Start-up Corner. In partnership with Guidewire Group, LeWeb3's Start-up Corner was a stage where 50 emerging european entrepreneurs presented their businesses. We have brought world class non-tech people like Hans Rosling, Nobel laureate Shimon Peres and two French presidential candidates into the same forum as world class tech people like Niklas Zennstrom, danah boyd and David Weinberger.
Niklas Zennstrom and Hans Rosling
danah boyd and David Weinberger
Politics and the Internet has always been in the program of LeWeb3, and in 2006 this was a heavy emphasis. In addition to the panel topics, Nobel Prize Shimon Peres and at the time presidential candidates Nicolas Sarkozy and François Bayrou, addressed the audience. We can proudly say now we had two countries' Presidents talk at LeWeb3, President Sarkozy and President Peres.
President Nicolas Sarkozy and President Shimon Peres
The presence of such polical leaders created a huge reaction on the blogs, making the conference #1 search on Technorati search engine for a week. The controversy was mainly a reaction about organiser Loic Le Meur not having warned the other speakers in advance of their presence, program changes and asking the audience if they agreed with the change. The politicians took up a total of about 1h30 out of an 18 hour conference. In 2007 the participants will be more involved in the entire program creation, using blogs and the facebook group for LeWeb3.
Word of mouth based event
It is only through word of mouth from blogs and social software that participants heard about and joined LeWeb3, no emails were sent, no online or offline ads were bought in any media. The participants join LeWeb3 to interact with their peers and be as active as the speakers on stage, it is not a traditional conference where people sit and listen being passive.They speak, write on their blogs, talk, chat, podcast and create more content, augmenting the content on stage.
Our stage presentations and speakers are catalysts for the conversations that come from the participants - before, during and after the event itself.
To-date the participants of LeWeb3 have amassed a vast library of content about this gathering. There are 608,000 pages talking about LeWeb3 in Google, 2500+ blog posts in technorati, 4000+ photos tagged lesblogs in Flickr and about 5000 photos tagged leweb3, 50 videos in YouTube and more on vpod (check them here and select conferences at the bottom of the screen).