Thursday, June 17, 2010

Red Herring's European Vacation

The second-to-last week in May was an event-full one in Paris, France. Guy Kawasaki was in town to host the 6th Microsoft BizSpark European Summit on growth and entrepreneurship on May 25th and the Red Herring hosted its ''Top 100'' Awards event from May 25 - 27. [Spoiler-alert: Everyone who attended received an award!]

I only got a few email exchanges in with Guy--he was also vacationing with his wife--but based on tweets and blog posts his seminar was a hit. (When isn't Guy a hit?!)

Alex Vieux, the publisher and CEO of Red Herring, on the other hand, may have had a ''hit'' put out on him! The Red Herring conference, recognizing the leading private companies in Europe, had all the potential to be a meaningful and worthy event, but left participants frustrated and angry.

I was there representing the incredibly successful social media marketing company, Social Radius. During the cocktails and dinners I had a chance to meet some of the participants.

Unfortunately, the first cocktail party, on May 25th, was not very well attended. They had a gorgeous room at the Hotel Luticia, where the conference took place, and enough food for 200 people. Sadly only about 40 people were there. As a sponsor, it was disappointing they didn't provide a table for our brochures and cards.

I met's John Graham, which does bookmarking for mobile applications; Clean Mobile AG's CEO Werner Gruber, which does clean technology for all motorized “vehicles” smaller than a car (meaning scooters, e-bikes, etc.);'s head of marketing Bruno Brusselmans (payment systems for online clients) and Datanomic's Chief Strategy Officer Steve Tuck. On the other side of the room I chatted with Canatu's David Brown and the Sports Alliance's Anthony Khan, who unfortunately left all his business cards on the Eurostar. Hate it when that happens!

Wednesday night, May 26, gave me the opportunity to chat more with Atos Origin's SVP Global Innovation Bruno VAFFIER, who is doing the IT for the Olympics. They're interested in meeting and buying young new companies that are innovative, and Flimmit Advisory Board member Ronald Lintner, who presented today. Avast CEO Vincent Steckler generated some interesting discussions over dinner as he was from Santa Monica AND has a Las Vegas phone number. He lived in Singapore and is now in Prague. Actually, almost all the Americans I met at this conference live in Europe now. Another ''squace(.com)-er'', Frank Verschoor worked as a VC when he lived in the states and now is in Holland.

The general feeling of disappointment at the low turn-out and poor organization grew from the first night. Apparently the opening speech by Alex Vieux was 45 minutes of depressing material. There was a low turnout and not as many VCs nor new companies. That said, many also recognized that this is the new reality it’s 2010 after a world financial crisis and not the heady days of 2007 or 2000!

The final night, Thursday May 27, felt like a scene from the ''Lord of the Flies.'' The evening dinner started late, like everything. And while on the first night there was food for 100 with only 40 who showed, tonight there were about 90 people and tables set only for 40! WHOOPS. Also, Alex Vieux left the conference and there were rumors that he “took his own advice: take the money and go.” At my table, some guys did a search on their phones and found this article, which fueled and fanned the hot and bothered (not in a good way) fires.

Between heckles throughout our dinner, my dining companions were EnQii Group CEO Ajay Chowdhurt, who also made some interesting points during Anthony Khan's roundtable on ''Monetizing the Social Network,'' Batley Capital Ltd's managing director Nasser Batley, Reform Tech's VP M&S and Founder Daniel Hagstrom, Red Solution's CEO Jayden Khakurel and Co-founder Eugene Kouumdjieff. Copernica sales marketer Walter Van Der Scheer was just one of this very lively bunch, who all arrived late, occupied their own table and all wore something red (Converse, a tie, a belt), as part of their brand-extension.

To my right was AttracTV founder & CEO Tzahi Sofer. We had a great chat about NY and about the difficulties marketing a startup when funds are restricted. This very energetic fellow from Tel-Aviv was telling me about the burgeoning technology scene and other advantages of Tel-Aviv. A solid entrepreneur, AttracTV is a neat product in its early stages. If you're looking to take on a young but hot company to help take them to the next level--contact them!

After a long day and dinner, the awards weren't presented until 9:30, well past the attention span for these already-unhappy attendees. Everyone in the room got an award. The atmosphere was like kids from a summer camp. At each announcement everyone would cheer and applaud. They were giddy with the ridiculousness of having to sit and wait for this dinner, the bad taste in their mouths from the poorly organized and not-well-attended conference and then sit through 100 awards.

The spirit of “this-conference-was-so-badly-organized-let’s-band-together-and-laugh-about-it” was a thin veil for the disgust people felt--they paid a lot of money and had high hopes. This conference could've been organized so easily--I wish I'd know they needed help so I could've perhaps assisted.