21. June 2012–
Mic Wright has been to more conferences than Mike Butcher has leather jackets. When he's not writing about tech and startups he can be found advising businesses on editorial strategy at The Mater Consultancy. He likes Diet Coke. A lot.
2pm in the LeWeb Speakers Lounge I am not a speaker. I am sat among the fine team from The Kernel where I am a Contributing Editor. We are giving TechCrunch the stink-eye and craving some booze to leaven the pain of schmoozing with industrial efficiency. On stages out in the real world people are saying things. This is not the point of LeWeb.
A good percentage of what happens on stage is more boring that contemplating the inner resonance of your navel. I catch a minute of an IBM honcho burbling about their plans for "Social". It sounds like Big Brother’s Twitter tzar telling Winston Smith that "the View Screen is like ‘totes amaze’".
“Who do I need to blow to get a Diet Coke?”...
...asks a senior PR woman. The Diet Coke shortage is *the* talking-point in the lounge. I bribe a waiter to get me one and suddenly get begged for a glass by a cartoonist who is on the speaker roster.
Milk.ly, a clever startup that lets you post tasks and get them done for a fee, launches at LeWeb. I put them to work: GET US A CRATE OF DIET COKE TO THE SPEAKERS LOUNGE, STAT... It’s fun to say “stat” like a surgeon ie. someone who has a real job and doesn’t spend their day poncing around with entrepreneurs and their associates, pretending to be doing things for social good but really craving a "big exit" and enough cash to swim through it Scrooge-McDuck-style.
Milk.ly comes through and the Diet Coke is delivered. The Speakers Lounge is more excited than it has been by any presentation thus far. A reporter from another outlet asks hopefully whether Milk.ly can deliver him “some blow”. Who says “blow”? People who think they’re minor characters in Wall Street or one of those suits who get slayed by Patrick Bateman.
In a fight between Rihanna and Scoble, who would win?
The afternoon splutters along in fits and starts. Sarah Lane in conversation with former New York Times social maven, Foodspotting co-founder and all round tyro Soraya Darabi is a highlight. So too are the incendiary contributions of my erstwhile editor Milo Yiannopoulos who needles European VCs and chairs the best panel of the two-day event with Andrew Keen verbal slapping Robert Scoble all over the stage in a passionate debate about the limits and dangers of Scoble. The only thing he is blowing is his company’s time and money.
Scoble is a lovely man, but utterly deranged when it comes to sharing his life. Unless you’re Rihanna, Keith Richards or a one-legged dwarf pornstar, your life is just not that compelling. Even with a new beard.
Loic Le Meur's London lovechild makes for a feisty networking event
Overall, LeWeb London was as unusual a beast as its Parisian parent. Loic and Geraldine Le Meur are geniuses when it comes to packing a conference with intriguing characters but the real fizzle happens on the floor rather than on the stage.
It’s the side chats, the interactions between start-ups and VCs, the little bitching sessions and the big blowouts that make LeWeb worth bothering with. The magic is in making connections and the theme “faster than realtime” was little more than a convenient peg for some great argument starters. Next time, though, remember this key fact: in a room full of geeks and over-caffeinated fund supremos, Diet Coke is a precious commodity. He who controls the Diet Coke can become king...