Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cocktails with Courtney ~ May

Imagine the scene: it's rush hour in New York City. Fifth Avenue (or Sixth Avenue if you like). You're between 34th and 42nd Streets and the sidewalks are separated from the street by Police barriers. You've called for a cab (you have to because there are none available). He can't stop because there are police everywhere and there's no where to stop.

This was my circumstance as I headed out of the e-G8 conference towards my "Cocktails with Courtney" event on Wednesday, May 25th, evening. My cab found me though, and after traversing the City of Light we ambled our way up the hill towards the Pantheon. Just below was the little Corsican epicerie (grocery store) that specializes in wines, cheeses and charcuterie from Corsica. The owners also own a trendy cafe around the corner; this one (A Loghja) is opened just when they want or for their friends. Thankfully, one of their friends is a friend of mine--Ms. Nathalie Ohana of OMGmother.com. Sponsored again by Recursion Ventures, we settled in some chairs on the cafe sidewalk, sipped our refreshments and nibbled on some delicious cured hams and cheeses while the other guests arrived. First up was Romain Lhez of MyEastPet.com. Next was Alain Cartier and his friend from Stockholm. Alain was introduced to me via Elizabet Swenson, a long-time friend of CWC. Sarah Besnard of Western Union came after hearing about the event from the Club Amex and Karen Lovitt of the American School came after hearing about it from one of my Dallas cousins! Small world. And it all comes together face-to-face in a simple cocktail party. Some things never change.

Stay tuned for next month's CWC where we'll be featuring * exciting * guest * Kevin Werbach!

e-not-so-Gr8?


The second day, May 25th, the e-G8 seemed to have lost much momentum. I headed back in the afternoon to catch Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's "conversation" with Publicis's Maurice Levy. It wasn't so much a conversation as a halting question and answer session. Poor little Zuckerberg was baffled a few times by Levy's attempts at banter and his thick French accent left several questions and comments falling flat. Zuckerberg was bravely sweating it out, literally, though. Poor guy was just in a t-shirt and jeans but kept sipping his Gatorade the entire grueling 90 minutes. Wait a minute! Poor guy--he's got millions--never-mind! He can sweat it out for a few minutes. Which he did, while we hung breathlessly on every word.

ZUCKERBERG'S "CONVERSATION"
Some of those words were:
* "The best thing about the Internet is it gives everyone a voice."
* "The basis of being grounded in reality makes Facebook Facebook."
* "The Internet lets the best things rise to the top" (People will select what they like and the services that aren't useful fall by the wayside. Zuckerberg is a true Darwinian.)
* "Location is getting bigger and bigger." (My father always told me, "Location, location, location." Oh wait--that's for Real Estate!)
* "The Internet is competitive and the users make The Best win."
* Zuckerberg thinks there are only 1 or 2 things that companies can do well. He gave Gaming companies as an example. Doesn't think companies should try to be all things to all people. Focus on what you do best and just do that.
* "Social design" - a principal for designing something - is something Zuckerberg takes seriously for Facebook. He "bakes" this concept into all apps going forward. An example was the Friend Request. Initially you had to respond "yes" or "no" to a Friend Request. Through his studies of psychology he knew it made people uncomfortable and that there were real-world consequences for a denial. Changing the "yes/no" to "accept/not now" made it easier for people to politely decline a friend request.
* Advice for entrepreneurs: "Believe in what you're doing."

The first question from the audience came from a Frenchman asking a typically French-styled question, which baffled Zuckerberg, even after Levy tried to translate it. It was about the "transparency" of Facebook and could you trust people's sincerity. After several attempts at understanding this question, once even eliciting a huge laugh from the audience Zuckerberg was even more determined to understand it and answer it. He finally was able to frame it, and responded with, "one of the things I've noticed as the company is being built up is how similar people are and not how different they are."

He said they are "really gearing up for mobile development and have some exciting things coming out." "Most of the world will be accessing the web via Mobile and not computers."

Zuckerberg really kept downplaying Facebook's influence over the Jasmine Revolution. In a final comment, he summed up it all with, "[he] really cares about people being sure they can share their lives with each other." I guess that really does say it all of what the Internet can do for us.

FINAL NETWORKING
The big hype was over and the final "recap" panel had no less than 11 people on it! I stepped out for some air, and to meet some new people before there was total dispersion. Chatting with Qwerly's Max Niederhofer was Linkedin's EMEA Marketing Director Laurence Bret. I also met Advocate-Hypermedia.com's Stanislas De Livonniere and Whoog's founder Geurric Faure who described (in French) his company's service utilizing mobile phones for emergency communications. Back over by the water/juice/soda bar I met Vincent Barbey, Adminium's Director General, who also was celebrating his birthday this day. Adminium's stores all your appliance and utility invoices online. Its real use comes into play when you're at Darty (http://www.darty.com/) (or BestBuy for example) and you have a broken stereo tuner but not your receipt. No problem, log into your Adminium account, find the doc, and have it emailed or faxed to the store from your online account. Pretty nifty, huh?

On my way out I met New York-based ScrollMotion founder Josh Koppel and Scoop.it!'s CEO Guillaume Decugis who described this service as a publishing platform between Blogger and Twitter, helping people find content, and thus users, by locating pertinent items for your site.

Locating content for my site wasn't a problem this week. Thanks e-G8!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

e-Gr8 NETWORKING

Immediately after the opening speeches on Tuesday, May 24th, I ran smack dab into John Perry Barlow and Juliette Powell. They were bubbly and while cynical about Sarkozy's speech, I think we all had Hope for what the rest of the conference could bring.

Shortly after, I ran into the famous Colette Ballou (Ballou PR) who graciously let me stand with her and watch the parade of fans come by to connect with this ultimate connector. She introduced me to Vincent Picou of SquareClock who explained his 3D realtime platform for personal and professional uses and Victoria Ransom, Wildfire Founder and CEO who's grown her business from 7 to 110 people in record time. Some gents gathered round our table for lunch were Ari Wegter of Mogul Associates, Andrew Scott of Urban Horizon, Frank Kelcz, VC/entrepreneur, Richard Titus of Octavian Ventures in the UK and Sokaratis Papfloraratos whose company TrustedPlaces just got acquired. I met Toussaint Roze of Notrefamille.com (which has now grown to 70 people) and has the enviable domain name of genealogie.com (take that geneology.com!) TechHub's Co-founder and CEO Elizabeth Varley was friendly while TechCrunch's Mike Butcher was busy looking at his phone the whole time we chatted.

Other folks spotted in our Internet Celebrity Bingo game were: LeWeb's Geraldine & Loïc Le Meur (who had their own group of fans), Personal Democracy Forum's Andrew Rasiej and the legendary Esther Dyson of EDventure. Gathered in their own little cluster were Ann Winblad (Hummer Winblad), Timothy Draper (Draper Fisher Juvertson) and the other money-holders.

Some new folks were:
  • Gilles Babinet who is the president of the Conseil Nationale Numerique, a new council (created by Sarkozy on April 27, 2011) to advise the government on digital subjects. This group does not have much support from the press and it seems it isn't destined to be an effective representation of actual digital enterprises and their needs.
  • Paddy Cogrove, a spritely modest wunderkin has created his buzz by creating a forum for just 150 founders of the companies like Skype, YouTube, Twitter, Wordpress and other leading influencers: F.ounders based in Dublin.
It was a whirlwind once again that I was used to, so I was sad to leave before the big party at Arc...but motherhood demands are more essential than even a hyped-up networking soiree...

e-G8: Opening Speeches by Levy and Sarkozy

Well. You've read the rest, now read the...Cyber Scene! :)

I can't compete with instant twitterers and bloggers, but I do have the scoop that others don't present. I find my position, of living here in France after having run a successful enterprise in the States, offers a unique perspective. For instance, while many reviews of the e-G8 were negative, I found it extremely useful. I suppose in large part this is because for me this was an over-the-top reunion where I got to see old friends from New York and San Francisco and meet new ones from Paris.

It was an the impressive setup (massive fully-furnished, wired and outfitted tents) in the Tuileries Garden. The an entire section of the sidewalk on rue de Rivoli was blocked off just for e-G8 participants. (Imagine blocking the West side of 5th Avenue's sidewalk from 34th Street to 42nd Street.) Then there was the fact that, according to Philippe Le Corre, Publicis Consultants Partner, who lead the organization of the conference, just 3 days before there was nothing--well, nothing save a gorgeous, historic garden created by a famed landscape architect (Le Notre).

SARKOZY'S SPEECH
The first morning, Tuesday, May 24th, there was a steady flow of reporters, press agents, CEO handlers and catering staff running to and fro. Eventually, everyone settled into the grand hall for Publicis Groupe Chairman & CEO and e-G8 Chairman Maurice Levy's welcoming remarks. Both Levy and Sarkozy spoke in French, which would seem to exclude a large number of attendees. However, French law dictates that for all official public speeches, French representatives must speak in French. Such is the love and respect for their language.




Comments about Sarkozy's speech ranged from "passionnante" (the French woman sitting next to me) to "pure rhetoric" (most everyone else). Some commented it seemed like they were hosting this conference so they can understand the Internet, so they can dominate and control it. I thought Sarko's speech was great. What kind of a statesman would a statesman be if he didn't lead off a conference that he created as his own personal marketing vehicle to demonstrate his interest and knowledge on a subject, days before another massive power mash-up, if he didn't have a speech full of passionate ideals?

I thought it was fascinating to watch Sarkozy speak. But perhaps that's because I can sit and listen to the French language, mesmerized, even if I'm not fully understanding it. Among the tidbits I gleaned, before getting the printed version to follow, were:

* This is a new form of civilization
* You've changed how the world looks at itself
* You've changed the relationship to space (not only by abolishing distance that separates man but it works a virtual world which is, by definition, without limits)
* You've changed the notion of time
* You've changed the the perception of History
* In several years you have shaken up the foundation of the economic world of which you are becoming the major actors
* You've changed the world.
* Something unique in History--this total revolution is immediate and irreparably global.
(Of course a French politician has to talk about REVOLUTION! :))
* Something unique in History--this revolution isn't attached to a person; there is not a flag or slogan; it is for the common good.
* Something unique in History--this revolution was made without violence.
* The discovery of the New World had lead to the annihilation of the American Indians.
* The world revolution that you have embodied, it is peaceful. It was not born on the fields of battle but on the university campuses.

He went on to talk about how this revolution has played a determinate role in other revolutions--from Tunisia to Egypt. Sarkozy continued with passion. Perhaps it was a speech related to a world in his own mind, or one that he's afraid of and wants to ultimately learn how to control, but either way--it was great entertainment.

Questions ranged from the Jasmine Revolution, Arab Spring, "internauts" (someone who knows how to use the internet) in Iran and privacy issues. My favorite was the (now famous) final comment from Jeff Jarvis of the City University of New York: "some say the Internet is the 8th continent; this discussion is wonderful; but I would like to ask the Government to take a Hippocratic Oath: 'Do No Harm!'" to which there was resounding applause by those who understood him.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

OpenCoffeeClub klatch

On May 19th, for just the second time in three years, I made my way over to the OpenCoffeeClub at Cafe Elgi on rue St. Marc. Every Thursday morning a group of technology entrepreneurs meet to unwind, catch up and listen to a member present their business or website.

I arrived just in time to chat with Alain Cavel, Founder & CEO of SocialMetry before the presentations began at 10:40 am. Then, Romain Lhez, Associate Director of MyEasyPet.com presented his website and recent developments, followed by Godefroy de Compreignac, co-founder & developer of Eklablog.com who brought us up to speed on his site.

Afterwards I met Paul Zuliani of Open Media Strategies, who slipped right into French with a Texas accent when he heard me introduce myself. (I guess my accent tipped him off.) English was Iva Pavlovicova (Inexence Group's General Director) first foreign language, in which she explained her luxury custom-made furniture business and other services she provides for Slovak businesses. We all chatted in a combination of French and English for a bit before we each went on to our next adventure of the day.

Each Thursday there is a different theme, and lots of interesting people. It's a nice change from the usual cocktail party--I will be heading back most definitely.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cocktails with Courtney Paris debut

Cocktails with Courtney ~ Paris debut was terrific. We had a great turnout and lots of energy to carry us through for the next one! Coming up May 25, 2011.