Develop in France / Digital Media

(Interview) Alain Courbon, Managing Director of LeWeb Conference

Earlier this month, we discussed with Alain Courbon, the managing director of LeWeb Conference. LeWeb is one the main digital conferences in Europe, it will be held on December 9th-11th in Paris.
PRIME is a partner of LeWeb. This year, we are bringing 20 U.S. companies to LeWeb as part of the Paris Region Business Tour. There are still some places left if you want to participate.

Could you please tell us the genesis of LeWeb?

Géraldine and Loïc Le Meur first created LeWeb in 2004. Their aim was to bring together the key internet players from all over the world to share their vision and experiences – and to explore future trends and the impact they would have on everyday life and the economy. That first 2004 event was actually called “Les blogs” and attracted 250 participants to the Senat in Paris. By 2006, Loïc wanted to develop the conference, and renamed the event “LeWeb”. Today, thanks to its global footprint, LeWeb brings together the very best global players within the new technology arena. The conference is inspirational for its range of talks and panels. Equally important, it is a place where participants can network, share their experiences and meet investors. People often tell us about the amazing energy they feel at LeWeb. There is a very optimistic atmosphere at LeWeb, with a desire to create, innovate and learn.

 LeWeb is an established event in Europe, what has changed since its creation? What is new for this years’ event?

 Over the past decade, LeWeb has highlighted trends, ideas and technology that shape the future of our industry. Many of these trends have exploded, such as the Internet of Things and The Sharing Economy, and new ones are constantly emerging.

New this year, we have decided to devote the conference discussions to several of the hottest topics and trends interesting the online community, rather than concentrating on a single subject. Trends that will be at the heart of LeWeb 2014 include The Makers, Sharing Economy, The reinvention of Healthcare, Disruption as an ecosystem, The Invasion of the European Super Startups, Digital Diplomacy and more: http://leweb.co/trends/

To address these trends, we have selected a number of curators, an amazing array of experts who are part of LeWeb’s community. Founder & Managing Partner, SoftTech VC, Jeff Clavier; Head of Digital Practice Europe, Burson-Marsteller, Matthias Lüfkens; Chief Catalyst & Founder Crowd Companies Jeremiah Owyang; Principal, Altimeter Group, Brian Solis,  are among the thought leaders who are in charge of creating the onstage programming for a trend. We believe this will bring the latest content on stage, created by those who understand it best: http://leweb.co/speakers/

Also new this year, we are presenting three topics aimed at well-established companies, agencies or consultants wanting to sharpen their digital strategy and discover new tactics for their business: 1. Digital Marketing and how to build a successful social media campaign; 2. Open Innovation and how to integrate innovation coming from startups; 3. Digital transformation and how to manage digital change throughout your company. Companies featured in these special sessions include Dunkin Donuts, Nestlé, Lego, Ferrero, Somfy and Bosch. These focused sessions will take place on a second, dedicated stage.

Furthermore, LeWeb Startup Competition is growing in 2014 with the first edition of LeWeb Startup Tour. The first stop of the Tour took place in Berlin early September and gathered 250 people from the German Tech community. After a pitch session, two startups, Localapp.io & Cuciniale.com, were selected amongst the 7 finalists. They will take part in the Startup Competition finals in December. The three other stops brought the Startup Tour to Stockholm (30 Sept) before heading to Paris (October 3) and Barcelona (Nov 6). All the information concerning the Tour can be found on http://leweb.co/startup-competition/

We also want LeWeb to be a unique and memorable experience and hope that participants will enjoy LeWeb@Night with our selection of great Parisian venues and a really cool networking tool that we’ll be unveiling shortly.

How do you scout for innovative companies and bring them to Le Web?

Keeping track of innovation is part of the DNA of the LeWeb team. It starts with Loic, who is passionate about new trends and companies operating in the internet ecosystem and who has a unique network of contacts. And that passion can be found throughout those people who work on LeWeb, whether they specialize in the Startup Competition, the conference programme, managing the Social Media communications or developing relations with the press.

The Startup Competition, managed by Bastien Vidal and Morgan Denis in the LeWeb team, is a major bonus because it is recognized as a true launching pad for startup companies, so it serves as a magnet that attracts innovative companies to the event. The new Startup Tour has enabled us to drill down to a local level. Berlin and Stockholm showed us that by organizing such an event, we reached out to the heart of the local tech community which has responded with incredible enthusiasm.

We also rely heavily on key media. We have media partners on the Startup Tour and the main LeWeb event who have qualified and sizeable readerships, which helps raise awareness about LeWeb. And, of course, those same media are a vital source of information for us, as we prospect new companies.

Today, LeWeb is one of the biggest conferences on Digital in Europe. What can Americans learn by attending LeWeb?

I’d say that Guy Kawasaki probably summed it up the best when he spoke at LeWeb Paris last year. He pointed out to his audience that not all the best and most innovative ideas are coming out of the United States and that many have their origins within Europe. LeWeb is a unique opportunity to meet those Europeans (and non-Europeans) who are driving the Tech scene and the wider internet sector.

LeWeb is a place where one can network in exceptional conditions, meet aspirational and highly innovative people and attend conferences curated by experts and visionaries from around the globe.

I guess that for an American, LeWeb is the best conference to meet the largest variety of startups, investors and tech companies coming from all over Europe and it is definitely a place to witness innovation in real time. There is life beyond Silicon Valley – the New York startup community proves that – and LeWeb is a unique window opening onto the world of European innovators. And of course, we do have really good croissants!

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