European entrepreneur for dummies

Neil Rimer (from Index Ventures) gives five tips for working with European entrepreneurs.

2. Help to de-risk the riskiest endeavor of their lives

Being an entrepreneur in Europe is a huge deal. Unlike in Silicon Valley, where being an entrepreneur is lauded, being an entrepreneur in Europe is viewed as a big risk – especially if you fail. It’s harder to re-integrate after a business fails, so learn how to structure a deal with that in mind. You have to learn how to “de-risk” an endeavor that is likely to be the riskiest deal in someone’s life.

North American investors need to adapt to a new reality where Silicon Valley is less attractive and, for the first time (and not the last, Brazil Russia India China!), they have to cope with the local culture. Not the opposite.

(via the alarm:clock euro)

The next web servers

In some African and Asian countries, GSM is the only networked technology available. As you can cover an important area with one single antenna, it’s not very surprising to see GSM ahead of ADSL, fiber or cable. These countries are (slowly) leapfrogging directly to the mobile era.

Now GSM – and the mainstream mobile terminals – come with huge limitations when it comes to exchanging written information: you can only be a content consumer. You can not distribute anything.

Not anymore? Maybe! The guardian reports that Nokia has managed to turn cell phones into web servers that can be accessed via bluetooth.

Nokia has ported the Apache webserver to Symbian, in order to enable mobile phones to serve content on the World Wide Web.


The first mobile web servers? It is not fully working yet but there is hope. And an interesting proposition that would open a lot of possibilities. What could happen in the developing countries? A few ideas:

site access reselling
I mirror a famous websites (wikipedia?) on my phones and give you access on demand. As phones don’t offer infinite storage, you would have the wikipedia guy, the NYT guy, the country’s newspaper guy. Completely new market. Business model: pricing per page.

asynchronous relay
You write your blog posts on my phone that I will sync with the web next time I hit a town with broadband. Same with emails. Pricing: price per action (post, email) with supplements depending on size.

not on-demand distribution of on-demand content
I compile a few videos from google videos (around a specific theme for example), put them on my phone, and distribute them at previously arranged hours with my community. Business model: pay per view.

It will be interesting to see where this technology – mixed with people’s creativity – will end up. (thx nico)

Technological encounters

During Wednesday’s panel, somebody asked me if I thought it was a good thing that more and more human relationships are going through machines. That’s a big question, and the solution will probably be in balance between real life and computerized interactions.

I think that:
• we went from having a few close friends to having a lot of distant friends (and still a few close friendships we build during our childhood, we are not born with iChat accounts after all).
• technology can not reproduce the richness of human contact, and can even be dangerous (remember: people correctly understand the mood of an email only 50% of the time!)
face to face is still the best way to know someone, and despite the fact video conferencing has been here for a while now we continue traveling around the world.
technology is expanding our social possibilities. Beyond the most well known tools (blogs, mySpace, IM, email), I’m very interested in more borderline and innovative possibilities like:

» DatingAnyone
It’s like putting a dating status RSS feed on your mySpace contacts. Every time somebody becomes single you will get an alert and “catch them at the rebound”. This creates an intriguing concept: lovers waiting list, where in theory someone could see who is monitoring her/his dating status, i.e. waiting for the person to be free.

» UrbanSeeder
This service creates “repeated co-attendance to events that may gradually draw you together”. Another new way of connecting. It’s a bit late for me to experiment it but I find this very poetic somehow.

» Jabberwocky
This application works around the Familiar Strangers concept, and turns your phone into a “mobile device to explore and play with our subtle, yet important, connections to the Familiar Strangers whom we regularly encounter”.

» BuddyBeads
These are “techno-jewelry items that facilitate non-verbal and emotional communication among group members, through codes and signals which the group decided upon together”.

Communications are being reshaped. We will have to learn how to benefit from these technologies – and from the new possibilities they offer – without losing our humanity.

The art of keeping the legal department busy

At first it sounded like a nice initiative. The BBC reports that Warner will debut movie downloads. Finally a legal alternative to peer to peer, iTunes for movies in on the way. Then this:

Pricing for a feature film will be about the same as the DVD release.

A download at the price of a DVD? Sounds a bit insulting, just as if it was a way for Warner to justify their current stance against their market’s evolution (decentralization, openness, less barriers and gatekeepers, etc…).

“We offered movie download to our customers, but they are still using peer to peer. Evil people, let’s sue them!”

That just doesn’t make sense. Download are cheaper than DVDs, until prices reflect that customer won’t use the legal systems.

Recreating the valley

Tom Coates wrote a long post about Paul Graham’s latest meme-speech (seems every time he steps on a conference stage a meme starts). This time Graham talked about what it would take to replicate the silicon valley, and came up with a few simple points (at least on paper).

All you need is the right 10’00 people and a country that:

  1. Allows immigration
  2. Isn’t a poor country
  3. Not a police state
  4. High quality universities
  5. You can fire people
  6. Attitudes that don’t associate ‘working’ with being employed
  7. Not anal about business regulations
  8. Huge domestic market
  9. High levels of funding
  10. People comfortable with career switching

France and Germany are behind on at least five counts (business regulations, firing people, attitude, career switching, funding), Switzerland on minimum three (immigration, huge domestic market, career switching). Asia? Police state, poor country, quality universities… No time to rest.

Every region has different problems, it will be an interesting race (and I have already explained my stance here).

Connected people

Update: I added a few more points to the end of the post. This list might grow as the discussion around this theme continues. Thanks for the comments!

I am speaking tonight on a panel with Pascal Rossini and Thierry Crouzet about the connectors, the generation that “silently, without demonstrating or asserting, is changing all the established codes”. An important and impassioning subject as it is a real revolution we are witnessing at the moment. And it is not only happening at LIFT or reboot, but in our daily life.

I wrote down a few ideas to clear up my mind before the talk, here they are:

Connectors brought some new rules:
• there aren’t six degrees of separation like before, but only one. All connectors are accessible via Google and email.
• the connector’s world is flat, old hierarchies are dead.
• the connector’s world is a meritocracy, everybody can stand out with creativity or work.
• english is everybody’s language, an interface between people around the globe
• relations are now bidirectional, unilateral communication – ignoring the other part’s feelings – is dead.
• machines (computers, mobile phones) are the number one socialization tool, and these offer some interesting and new possibilities (familiar strangers, meetic, urban seeder )

What are the consequences of this shift?
• Internet is the new silicon valley.
• meritocracy is a reality for enterprises, creators, artists, etc… Take coComment that goes in seven days from a Swiss chalet to Wired.
• network is the new job security (as hugh told me over lunch last week, great quote)
• our identities are more and more forged by our relations rather than by what we are
• a global culture is emerging, we have never had that much in common (google is the obvious example). At the same time, nationalism is re-emerging again a little bit everywhere…
• rules will completely change in the coming years, the third wave is here. This will notably impact our businesses that will have to rethink marketing, recruiting, work-life balance, work organization, management, etc…

Why is the revolution happening now?
• internet of course, it created an almost universal link between all of us.
• the education and information level has never been that high, and citizens increasingly want to have their say and become consumactors.

This sounds too good to be true, what’s wrong?
• the entry barrier to the world of connectors is relatively high. One billion people use the web out of six billions human beings. That’s a long way to go, and a decent education is still not a given in most countries.
Nicolas Nova was telling me he was skeptical this model could self organize and scale. I tend to agree with him and think connectors are more an emerging elite rather than a phenomena coming to every single person on this planet.
• we tend to have more relations with people through computers. We communicate more with those that are away than with those in our immediate vicinity. Sociality is getting less and less human, and we’re losing a lot of richness and diversity in the process.

A few more points:
• Network is stronger than geographical positions.
• Confidence (and relationships) is this world’s most valuable intangible asset.
• The intention economy is here.
• Innovation will come from everywhere, especially from the bottom. Hierarchies are dangerous.
• ideas are snowballs. A leader is a person whose ideas will be picked up and relayed by others. You can’t lead by imposing ideas anymore.
• I fear for my privacy. Privacy and identity will be a major challenge for the connected world.
• The fact my life is archived – whether I like it or not – freaks me out.


J’ai rajouté quelques points à la fin de ce post.

Je participe ce soir à une table ronde avec Pascal Rossini et Thierry Crouzet sur le thème des connecteurs, cette génération qui “sans bruit, sans manifester, sans revendiquer, est en train de bouleverser tous les codes établis”. Sujet passionnant et important, c’est une véritable révolution à laquelle nous participons en ce moment, et elle ne se passe pas qu’à LIFT ou à reboot, mais donc la vie de tout un chacun.

J’ai noté quelques idées pour tout à l’heure, les voici en vrac:

Les connecteurs ont apporté de nouvelles règles:
• il n’y a plus 6 degrés de séparation comme avant, mais 1 seul. Tous les connecteurs sont accessibles via google et email
• le monde des connecteurs est plat, il n’y a plus vraiment de hiérarchie.
• le monde des connecteurs est une méritocratie, tout le monde peut sortir du lot par ses idées et son travail
• il n’y a plus de frontières, et la situation géographique n’est plus importante
• l’anglais est la langue universelle, en tous cas la langue d’interface entre des cultures différentes
• les relations sont désormais bidirectionnelles, le temps de la communication unilatérale et ignorante de ce que pense l’autre partie est révolu.
• les machines (ordinateurs, téléphones) sont l’outil de socialisation numéro un, et elles offrent quelques possibilités intéressantes et nouvelles (familiar strangers, meetic, urban seeder )

Pourquoi est-ce que tout ça se passe aujourd’hui?
• internet bien sûr, qui a permis de créer un lien quasi-universel entre tous.
• le niveau d’éducation et d’information s’élevant de plus en plus, chaque citoyen veut de plus en plus devenir acteur. C’est l’apparition des consomacteurs chers à Xavier Comtesse.

Quelles sont les conséquences de l’avènement des connecteurs?
• Internet est la nouvelle silicon valley.
• la méritocratie est une réalité pour les entreprises, les créateurs, les artistes. Exemple de coComment qui passe en sept jours d’un chalet suisse à Wired.
• le réseau est la sécurité de l’emploi (comme me l’a justement soufflé hugh)
• nos identités sont de plus en plus forgées par nos relations plutôt que par ce que nous sommes
• une culture globale émerge, nous n’avons jamais eu autant en commun (google par exemple) et pourtant on dirait que les nationalismes de tout bord ressortent en ce moment, est-ce paradoxal?
• les règles de vie vont complètement changer dans les années qui viennent. La troisième vague arrive! Cela va avoir un impact fondamental sur notre société, et plus spécifiquement sur les entreprises qui vont devoir repenser leur marketing (uni vers bidirectionnel), recrutement, organisation du travail, management, etc…

Quels sont les problèmes potentiels?
• la barrière à l’entrée de la peuplade des connecteurs est relativement haute. Il y a un milliard d’internautes pour 6 milliards d’être humain, et donc encore beaucoup de chemin à parcourir. Il faut éduquer, équiper, etc…
Nicolas Nova me parlait de ses réserves face aux théories de Thierry Crouzet. Il pense que ce modèle ne peut pas se généraliser à tous, et j’ai tendance à être de cet avis. Je pense que les connecteurs formeront une espèce d’élite, mais jamais l’intégralité de la population.
• nous finissons par avoir plus de relations avec les personnes qui ne sont pas là qu’avec celles qui sont physiquement présentes. C’est une forme de déshumanisation des relations humaines.

Quelques autres idées:
• Le réseau est devenu plus fort que la position géographique.
• La confiance (et plus généralement les relations au sens liens entre personnes) est l’actif intangible le plus important de ce nouveau monde.
• L’économie de l’intention arrive.
• L’innovation viendra de partout, surtout du bas. Les hiérarchies sont devenues dangereuses!
• Les idées sont des boules de neige. Un leader est une personne dont les idées sont reprises et amplifiées par la masse. On ne peut plus diriger en imposant.
• La protection de la vie privée et de l’identité sera l’un des problèmes majeurs du monde connecté.
• Le fait que ma vie en ligne soit archivée – que je le veuille ou non – me fait peur.