LeWeb London 2012 – Lessons and Learnings

I was very fortunate to spend two days at LeWeb London 2012 on the 19th & 20th June this year. Methodist Central Hall in Westminster was a fitting venue for what turned out to be an informative debate on the state of the European start up scene. It provided me with some really good insight into what it takes to build and maintain a successful business. There was a certain amount of fluff and pomp from both startups, investors and successful entrepreneurs so I thought it would be nice to cut through that alongside my highlights and learnings below.

LeWeb'12 London 2012 Stage

LeWeb London 2012 Stage

LeWeb London 2012 – Highlights and Key Takeaways

Day One

Jamie Oliver,  Television Personality & Kevin Systrom, Co-Founder & CEO, Instagram with Loic Le Meur, LeWeb  London 2012 Founder

I have to admit I am quite a fan of how Kevin Systrom has approached building Instagram and in the first big talk he was alongside Jamie Oliver.

[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pdbzmk0xBW8]

Key Takeaways:
  • Photo’s bridge gaps that languages can’t
  • People tend to be much nicer when using images than when using words
  • Instagram has democratised the creative process
  • Photo’s on Instagram tend to have around a 10 hour interest window
  • Instagram now has 50 million+ users
  • Instagram solved the problem of how people communicate visually using mobile
  • Instagram API has allowed them to keep their focus on mobile and let other people fill out their ecosystem
  • Instagram are working on the ability to allow you to go back in time to revisit older photos

“It’s like an empty stage with a drum kit and guitars–businesses need to hire passionate musicians to use them.”

Jamie Oliver on social media

Phil Libin, CEO, Evernote & Loic Le Meur, Founder, LeWeb London 2012

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Y0_lC5tZGI”]

Key Takeaways:
  • Evernote has 34 million users
  • They make money from happy people and currently 4% of people pay
  • The longer someone is a user the more likely they are to pay which rises to a maximum of 25%
  • Average $US per user per platform
    • $1.06 – Android
    • $1.44 – Windows Phone 7
    • $1.79 – iPhone
    • $2.01 – Blackberry
    • $2.18 – iPad
  • 50% of Evernote’s development time is spent on Apple 50% on all other platforms
  • Evernote Food makes $6.73 a user due to its niche user base
  • The 30% they pay to Apple is a bargain when you include the marketing you get from being in the App Store
  • More than happy for users to use in app purchases as it reduces the friction of their payment process

“Spend every single minute building the best product, if Google or anyone else manages to build a better product then they deserve to win and the world will be a better place for it.”

Phil Libin on competition

Jason Goldberg, Founder & CEO & Bradford Shane Shellhammer, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Fab & Michael Arrington, General Partner, CrunchFund

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gsj-a9v7IIE”]

Key Takeaways:
  • Jason Goldberg lost $47 Million dollars in his previous start-up
  • Focus on being the best at one thing
  • When they pivoted from a Gay Social site to an eCommerce platform they turned their old site off for three months to ensure they could focus on getting the new one right
  • Build the product first then the company will follow
  • Experiment to get the product right then iterate to improve specifics
  • 50% of their members come from social sharing
  • Friction is the most common problem for people to pay for things online

“It’s all about shifting from impressions to connections”

Bonin Bough from Kraft on the future of online advertising

Martin Varsavsky, Founder & CEO, Fon

Amazing talk on how Martin achieves the focus and lifestyle that he needs to run a very successful company at scale.

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB10ilqE6sw”]

“Delegation means that things will never be done the way you want but it is the only way to buy you time to do the things you love.”

Martin Varsavsky

Methodist Central Hall Westminster venue for LeWeb London 2012

Methodist Central Hall Westminster venue for LeWeb London 2012

Day Two

Riccardo Zacconi, Co-Founder & CEO, King.com & Eric Eldon, Co-Editor, TechCrunch

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpz9vpBoSKE”]

Key Takeaways:
  • King.com has 12 million daily users, 50 million monthly users but focus is on daily numbers
  • They launch 80 games a year on their website for testing and the ones that get traction are then added to Facebook around 10%
  • Monetise via advertising, virtual goods and VIPs
  • Casual games are the most popular
  • Cross platform capabilities really helps drive growth
  • Core demographics female over 25 with core players female over 35
  • Built a platform which enables them to wrap games with a social layer easily to help them scale

Shakil Khan, Head of Special Projects, Path &Loic Le Meur, Founder, LeWeb London 2012

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thH_DBqsmQk”]

Key Takeaway:
  • Facebook is copying Path on mobile!

“Facebook is building the cities, Path is building the homes.”

Shakil Khan

Sam Shank, Co-Founder & CEO, HotelTonight & MG Siegler, General Partner, CrunchFund

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxxRe_d1inE”]

Key Takeaways:
  • Same day booking system, 100% focus on mobile
  • Some hotels still require a fax for booking
  • 8 seconds to pay, 3 taps and a swipe, was just 3 taps but was too easy to book accidentally
  • No legacy and a very singular focus on mobile and same day booking allows them to differentiate

“Lack of focus is the biggest killer for startups. I named my company HotelTonight to enforce this.”

Sam Shank

Baratunde Thurston, Comedian

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=li0AjbJca00″]

Key Takeaways:
  • He is a funny dude!
  • The Onion vote on best headlines for major stories out of a list compiled by staff

Dr. DJ Patil, Data Scientist in Residence, & Josh Elman, Principal, Greylock Partners

This was one of my favourite talks and they both did an amazing job of showing how big data works and can help shape decisions and the specific example from Twitter from 13 minutes in is priceless.

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2snRPbhsF0″]

“Data science is the new black.”

Tim O’Reilly

Key Takeaways:
  • Use data to have a conversation
  • Use data to find inflection points and then optimise towards
Data Scientific Method
  • Start with a question
  • Leverage all your current data
  • Create features and run tests
  • Analyse and draw insights
  • Let data frame the next conversation


So there was a lot to take in at LeWeb London 2012 and congratulations to Blippar for winning the startup competition. Had an interesting meeting with Teleportd who came third about how we might be able to use their social photo aggregation tool at Metro.

LeWeb London 2012 – My Learnings

It wasn’t until a couple of days later when I sat down to compile this post that I really began to distil how to apply startup thinking to a more established company. However can any large company these days really afford not to think like a startup? The world is changing around us at such a pace and modern technology aids rapid disruption of just about anything, so no one should get complacent.

Most of the questions that the startup competition judges asked, were around what problem were these startups trying to solve. The more concrete the answer the easier it was to see how effective each of these businesses were. The other really useful part of having a clear problem to solve was the focus that it provided in asking the right questions around how the product was being developed.

Focus was a reoccurring theme throughout from both entrepreneurs and seasoned executives. The CEO of HotelTonight even went as far as naming his current venture to ensure that they weren’t distracted from providing the best experience when you are in need of a Hotel Tonight.   When Fab pivoted rather than trying to keep their existing community happy they turned the site off whilst redeveloping to ensure that they weren’t distracted at all.

I can’t imagine that these decisions were easy or to some people seemed very logical but are very Lean in their approach. The clear goals and focus also make it much easier to use data in a way to shape decision making. By having a clear focus on growing users Twitter was able to work out the tipping points to turn first time users into regulars. This enhanced their focus on optimising those parts of the user journey that provided these metrics until they reached hyper growth.

User experience was another key theme throughout LeWeb London 2012, with so much choice available to end users if your product doesn’t delight them on a regular basis then they aren’t likely to stick around. This can be hard from a scientific standpoint to measure and optimise but focusing on keeping people happy has allowed Evernote and many others to grow very sustainable profits. Path’s lazer focus on this area has also allowed them to differentiate from Facebook on mobile to the point that they are now copying them.

There is always someone bigger out there but most likely they will have a much larger set of people to keep happy and that can end up detracting from the end product. You have to be constantly looking forwards and focused on improving rather than looking at other people. Copy cat startups got a pretty bad rap from stage participants and especially from investors. By doing something different and disrupting existing businesses your potential rewards are so much greater than being just another clone.

LeWeb London 2012 encapsulated an amazingly diverse set of ideas and thoughts into a rather enjoyable set of talks that didn’t really speak to the “Faster than realtime” theme but not sure that was the point. London as a startup scene definitely isn’t the Valley but that is probably why it is interesting to many.

Key Takeaways:
  • Solve a problem
  • Ask the right questions
  • Focus on the above to at all costs
  • User Experience is a key differentiator
  • Use data to drive conversations and frame decisions
  • Happy users stick around longer and spend more money
Metro Logo in Blippar Presentation at LeWeb London 2012

Metro Logo in Blippar Presentation at LeWeb London 2012

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