Wednesday 11 January 2012

Insights from LeWeb'11

I attended LeWeb in Paris, France on Dec 7-9th 2011. LeWeb is the premier technology conference in Europe which attracts influential businesses, up and coming entrepreneurs, passionate speakers and bold ideas while providing an opportunity to network with everyone involved. LeWeb'11 was themed around what they called SOLOMO (Social-Local-Mobile) and they had a wealth of influential speakers on the subject.

Below I have captured some of the insights and notable content from LeWeb'11:

:: Berlin

Bright and young entrepreneurs are flocking to Berlin. London has always been seen as a cultivator of entrepreneurs and their startups within Europe but Berlin is taking off. Its tech scene is trying to emerge as a thriving economy: entrepreneurs are setting up shop along with talented young professionals seeking employment. From SoundCloud to Gibsy to Wooga.

:: Tackling Heavily Regulated and Entrenched Markets

:: Mobile

In the history of computing, mobile has had the fastest adoption rate. There are currently 700 million smart phones being used and the projections are that this will treble in 3 years. Product companies building web-based applications should therefore think seriously about where their user base currently is and where it will be in 3 years. Given that the general trend is heading towards mobile, if companies are not heavily focused on it then they should at least know why not and have a good reason for it.

From a technology standpoint mobile requires different skill sets within an engineering team. Depending on whether the chosen development architecture is cross-platform (PhoneGap, Appcelerator, or simply HTML5) or native (Objective-C for iOS, Java for Android, C# .NET for Windows Phone 7), a clear understanding of how these mobile devices, with their many versions and layouts, will interact with your web-based application is critical. If you are fortunate enough to have already built or inherited a service-oriented architecture (SOA) based application, you are one step in the right direction to building out your mobile product offerings. Scaling with hundreds, thousands or even millions of mobile applications being used in the wild (each set with their own application versions) presents some very unique challenges that will need to be overcome if the mobile growth projections become reality.

:: Prioritize Design

Many companies still neglect design to their detriment. Engineering teams usually hire in a contract graphic designer or user-interface designer for usability concerns instead of focusing on it in-house. Flipboard CEO, Mike McCue, stressed that the trade-off in software engineering is between a few very well designed features or many mediocre ones.

:: Focus

Continually question what your company's focus is and make sure you are always correcting your course back to that initial purpose. Many companies start out with a clear focus but over time there is a strong tendency for it to either become diluted or for the company to forget/ignore what the original focus was. The key take away was that a company's focus is key to their growth and holding onto that singular focus is very important in a sea of constant noise.

:: Put People at the Center

Many people attribute Facebook's huge success to a pivotal turning point when the tagging of photos became mainstream on their social platform. There were many companies building web-based photo sharing applications (such as Flickr) but Facebook quickly became the largest by far by simply putting people at the center of those photos. Facebook added a key feature which allowed people to tag their friends, family and just about anyone they knew which caused a massive change in people behaviour to begin uploading and tagging pictures on Facebook in record numbers never before seen in an online application. The power of social is the people are at the centre.

:: Dream Bigger

The now well know advice that Steve Jobs gave to an executive trying to reinvent the Disney Store was to "Dream Bigger". Time and time again VCs on stage would urge the crowd to ignore the easy road of building yet another photo sharing app and find a problem or need in the world that is so huge that it scares you to even think about it. Those are the kinds of ideas entrepreneurs should be thinking about and trying to solve. Whatever you are thinking you can allows dream one step bigger.

:: Best Interviews (Videos)

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