7 Quotes from LeWeb London 2012 That Make You Go Hmm…
A LOT was going on at LeWeb London last week. Not only was it the first UK version of this Paris-based technology conference, but it was also an ideal opportunity for techies to catch a glimpse of some of the industry’s biggest names: Instagram, Highlight, Evernote, SoundCloud, Scoble, Arrington, Andrew Keen, Jamie Oliver, and many more.
But besides the stuff LeWeb is usually associated with — the big names, the fancy venue, and the glamour of it all in general — this particular conference came with a couple of notorious and unforgettable quotes that left me thinking.
These are the seven quotes that I think best reflect the state of the tech industry today:
- “The 21st century is a lousy time to be a control freak”
Alec Ross, senior advisor for innovation to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, discussed the influence of social media in cultivating changes in government. In effect, heads of state, journalists, and anyone with an agenda can no longer enjoy the luxury of conveying a story in a specific way. In the 21st century, each story has dozens, if not hundreds or even thousands of people present, sharing in real time what they perceive to be going on. So in our day and age, telling a story in a specific way is a battle lost in advance.
- "Imagine walking into a room and knowing everything about anyone in it"
When Paul Davison, founder and CEO of Highlight, uttered this thought, everyone flinched uncomfortably in their chairs. Just a couple of years ago, we thought that only our children will have to deal with this reality, but apparently we already do. Highlight, for those less familiar, is an app that notifies you about the people around you. You can see their name, photos of them, mutual friends, and anything else they have chosen to share. On the one hand, knowledge is power. But on the other hand, is having all that power a bit too much? I haven’t decided yet.
- “Windows Phone is the new cool”
Andreas Constantinou, founder of VisionMobile, a market analysis and strategy firm, brought with him a wealth of data from the mobile scene. One important study revealed that 57% of developers plan to adopt Windows Phone. Now that’s a big deal. In a world where we have gotten so used to the Android/iPhone war, when a new player is crowned “cool,” especially among developers, it makes you believe once again that anything is possible.
- “The world isn't only Silicon Valley”
I was surprised by how much hype was around something as practical and non-futuristic as a taxi-hailing app. At one point, Uber and Hailo were on stage together at what seemed to be a battle of the taxi platforms. Michael Arrington, general partner of CrunchFund, moderated the panel. Known for being a provocative interviewer, Arrington asked Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, why he chose a COO from Europe. His reply most simply put: “Cause the world isn’t only Silicon Valley.” This remark blew away the mostly-European audience and made us remember that although Silicon Valley is the tech capital of the world, so much — and probably even more — is happening in other cities like Berlin, Tel Aviv, and Tokyo.
- “You can’t say October 26th [The Kloutocalypse] in our office without people flinching”
Joe Fernandez , Klout CEO, probably underwent the hardest grilling in five years at LeWeb, as attendee Adam Tinworth tweeted. Alexia Tsotsis, editor at TechCrunch, tried to corner Fernandez and ask him if Klout isn’t “just a whole lot of BS.” The “Kloutapocalypse” episode last year refers to the changes Klout made to their algorithm, generating a lot of user resentment when they noticed a huge drop in their score. After Tsotsis read some of the feedback, she questioned whether this power should be in the hands of a third party at all: “Isn’t it way too much control over people’s sense of self-worth?” In a world where the highly-active people in the social sphere score higher than others and are perceived as influencers, these questions, harsh as can be, are right on the money.
- “Facebook is trying to copy Path”
The ‘Path’ session was truly awesome. LeWeb Founder Loic Le Meur asked Shakil Khan, head of special projects at Path, “Is Path the mobile app Facebook should have developed?” Khan replied with a polite “no comment,” but it just so happened that the head of Facebook’s mobile business, Henri Moissinac, took the microphone during Q&A and stated that many people in Menlo Park [Facebook HQ] like using Path and are inspired by it. Then he literally announced, “Facebook is trying to copy Path.” What a statement!
- “Pinterest makes crap look good. It bores me, but it makes stuff look good”Jamie Oliver participated in the panel with Kevin Systrom, CEO of Instagram. It was a true Instagram lovefest. Jamie went on and on about how Instagram is a great way to cultivate connections and content, and even recruit creative designers. When Pinterest came up, Jamie’s infatuation suddenly died down. While Pinterest is known to be the fastest-growing site in history, Jamie’s quote reveals that he’s not that impressed. You can pretty much use the two sites for the same purpose, but if you have as much influence as Jamie Oliver, ranking one channel above the other might be perceived as more of a political statement than anything else — and that really gets you thinking.
LeWeb was certainly a conference for the true webaholic, and perhaps one of the more philosophical web conferences around. Which might explain my personal enjoyment of it. I especially enjoyed the part when The Onion’s Baratunde Thurston told us how his team created a Twitter account called @SwineFlu so that when they followed people who tweeted about their swine flu fears, they would get an alert saying “@SwineFlu is now following you.”
To say the least, it’s a conference that gets you thinking, which in my opinion is more than anyone can ask for. What other quotes got you thinking?