Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What Hugo Barra Said About China at #LeWeb

If you missed what Hugo Barra said about China at #LeWeb, you missed an important presentation.  He made it clear the sheer numbers of users around any start-up or social media company that takes off in China are gigantic and need to be noticed.

I thought his presentation was simple and to the point, but the point is still hard to wrap your head around. What's happening in China economically, politically and culturally is an amazing story. Don't miss it.

Look Who Just Walked In

Welcome to our global party at LeWeb. It’s always strange to realize it’s easier to see someone who happens to live 20 minutes across town from you back home, by going to a conference in Paris.  Go figure! I guess at home you get so caught up in stuff, booking time for coffee even with a best friend is a challenge.  It’s one of those things about conferences I really love.

In August, we had an amazing party in Half Moon Bay, CA thanks to Robert Scoble and Guy Kawasaki, to celebrate the launch of my novel about entrepreneurs, Founders Less Than Three.  Some of the earliest bloggers and other new friends attended and rocked the place. Now we’re together again in Paris in December.  I’ve been traveling through Europe since Nov. 9th talking about and reading from my book in Italy, Austria, Germany, France and next week I go to the UK.  

On my trip, I’ve met an amazing army of startup warriors in the EU, women and men at accelerator programs, co-working spaces and all over.  They’re not too different than their comrades in the US in their go-for-it attitude. But, I thought Guy’s advice yesterday when he was interviewed by Loic at @LeWeb was spot on –- don’t copy any US startups, be unique and be yourself!

I’ve met so many of my friends in tech through blogging and conferences. I live in Boston.  I’ve never lived in the San Francisco Bay Area but when we come to a conference like @LeWeb we see friends from there all over the world, as if we’d created a country all our own. Welcome to our new union of #makers and shakers. Don’t be shy, if there’s someone you want to meet, go for it. Take time to say hello with two more conference days left.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Our Daily Bread // Notre Pain Quotidien

I’m looking forward to James Courrier’s panel on Bitcoin Tuesday at @LeWeb, but I have to warn him he’s got his work cut out for him when he talks about value and growth. It’s a tough subject on every level.

Bobby Manhattan's site will tell you lots about baguettes.
A few days ago I was chatting with a young French woman in Grenoble who’s never been out of France about the euro versus the dollar and gave her some examples of what shoes cost, or a car or gasoline in the US versus France, just to explain the difference. 

But really, it only made things more complicated as I explained that we pay a lot less for shoes, especially for brands like Converse. Our hightop sneakers might be $50 and theirs are100 euros. And cars … how do you explain that many more cars in the US are Japanese brands and we don’t have many of the major French brand cars?  Or that despite the major US auto brands on the brink of bankruptcy (or in it) most Americans didn’t feel any loyalty about buying American cars a few years back when OUR companies were cratering.

Then even try to explain gasoline prices – forget it.  Europeans have a price for a liter that looks like the price we pay for a gallon I told her, giving rise to a more and more confused French face in front of me.

I could see her reaching for something more basic. Finally she said, “Quelque chose simple.  Une baguette, combine ça coute aux Etats Unis?”

"How much does a baguette cost in the US?"  This blew my mind and I started to laugh.  A baguette. I suppose you could translate it into “a loaf of bread” but ours and theirs hardly compare.   Their loaf of bread is so deeply entrenched and so essential to the French way of life, it is something completely alien to our notion of a loaf of bread. So now we were in deep muddy cultural waters, despite her trying to give me an easy point of comparison.

So how do I explain to her, we don’t even HAVE baguettes as a basic item. A baguette is some fancy French thing you pay $3.50 for in high-end stores and is often as not practically stale.  While the French pay less than a euro in many towns for incredibly delicious, fresh bread and it’s available in bakeries on every street corner in every town in the whole country. 

And the French base so many moments in their lives around their iconic bread.  From the moment they are welcomed at the table, as little kids,  drinking bowls of hot cocoa and jamming their mouths with buttered "tartines" and "confiture", their marmalade (which is not marmalade really), or nor is it our idea of jam.

And the freshness of a new warm baguette.  How do I explain that we don’t actually get much fresh food in the US compared to Europeans.  We get a lot of food, but it’s not that fresh because it’s trucked around endlessly. If you’ve eaten anything in Italy, you know what I’m talking about.  The food is so fresh and simple it feels like they just picked it out of the garden and it’s still growing, because they probably just did go out the door and pick it five minutes ago.

And we don’t have bakeries every three feet and people carrying fresh bread under their arms heading home after work ready for an amazing French dinner.

And we don’t have bakers regulated and subsidized by the government.  The French government has to do this I suppose, since not having French bread in France would be like not having gravity on Earth. Inconceivable.

And we don’t have very many schools where kids learn to be bakers or apprenticeships where they perfect the art of baking amazing bread and incredible pastry. We don’t have the tradition.  Nor do we pay bakers a living wage. She would cry if she ate what we consider “a loaf of bread.”

I was flummoxed. This conversation was just not going the right way.  “Attends,” I said. I picked up my phone and searched Google for the exchange rate.  1.00E is about $1.31 now.

“Voilà,” I said, ending the conversation but not answering the big question at all.  Can you compare two cultures and what they value and come up with a real understanding of what the words expensive or inexpensive mean?  No.

And in a market or the older version – an actual marketplace – can you predict how another buyer might feel about a price that you, as the seller, feel is fair?  No.  There is no price or cost or value without a context.  It gets back to supply and demand and the oldest underlying principles of what people value. 

Now that I’m in Paris for @LeWeb I see this same issue.  When people talk about the value of Twitter or Pinterest or Dropbox, does it make sense that they are worth billions?  And don’t get me started on that new rollercoaster of high tech value, Bitcoin, I’ll leave that to Courrier and his colleagues to figure out.

It’s just like the French open air markets we’ll pass along on the bus, heading up to LeWeb, no better place to learn that value is subjective. As for technology, sometimes, it's about living your life and what makes it easier to live and ultimately what you care about. So perhaps it is about earning and eating our daily bread.   

Photo Credit: Bobby Manhattan

Sunday, December 8, 2013

John Lennon: One Person Can Change the World

If you ever wonder if one person can change the world, remember John Lennon today.  As I get ready to take the TGV up to Paris to join the amazing crew at @LeWeb, I think of someone ending John Lennon's life so early and it really is a loss.

Never doubt how much you can change the world.  As we gather at @LeWeb every single person brings their energy and inspiration to share with others to make the next ten years a time of startling innovation.  Share that desire to make a difference.

Looking forward to hearing the inspirational speakers including pals Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble, Gary Vaynerchuk as well as our amazing hosts Geraldine LeMeur and Loic LeMeur.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hashtag: #BEST2014 Ever!

#BEST2014 ever! 
Ready for the best 2014 ever?  You are closer than you think to making it a truly transformative year.  What if you started demanding the best ever for yourself?  And what if you took action towards that today?  What's the one thing you want to change?

Talking with friends as we approach the new year, when they share their concerns or problems, I can't help thinking of the very few things they can change in their lives that could really make a difference. They are not big things.  They are little things.  So small, so easy to do and so powerful. Even one thing can change the quality of your life in a big way.  What's your one thing?  Start by asking, what's #MYONETHING?  You might want to share it.

1. Get an hour more exercise every single day and see what a great new year you have to show for it.  Add an hour walk to every day.

2. Take your significant other a gift every day. It doesn't have to be big.  It can be a small thing -- a cookie, flowers, a back rub, a special phone call, a new ball of yarn, a new pair of running shorts, an hour of parenting so your "other" gets a break.  You decided they were the most important person in your life.  Remind them how significant they are. And show them by your actions.

3. If you stop and think "I deserve the best" you will quickly know what areas of your life need a little fixing -- a little jiggering -- a very small change to make a very big change in the quality of your life. If you drink wine with dinner and one glass feels healthy, but two glasses makes you waste the rest of your evening, time for one glass.

4. Go with the urge to purge. I have friends who did a big purge of all sorts of clothes and household items, donating them to help others and replacing them with the BEST versions of certain core items. They tossed a lot of not-so-great bedding for instance and replaced it with a few wonderful 100% wool blankets from Austria for winter and some great Egyptian cotton sheets for every other day of the year. They have a few beautiful things, instead of a bunch of mediocre stuff they don't like.

5. Don't talk bucket list with me if you're not crossing some of your dreams and desires off the list on a regular basis.  If you've always wanted to go to surfing school in San Diego -- show me your plane ticket to San Diego. Just go.

6. You will never go wrong spending one hour more a day helping others.  Give back, you know you can.  People need your help. So many people. You could be teaching someone to read, giving lessons in how to start a company or passing out hot bowls of soup at a shelter an hour from now if you committed yourself.

7. Are your bills or your budget out of control?  Sit down and work on them for an hour … now.  Be clear with people about what you can afford.  Even if you're in a really bad financial position, work with one of the people you owe money to today, to get that one debt off your list.

And if you think these small changes won't really make a difference, think about their opposite. Turn two glasses of wine into three and imagine a year with a DUI arrest, or worse.  What about more junk in your house that never comforts you? Not a pretty picture.

Big problems are good at getting bigger when ignored, but strangely addressable if you just do something small. Can't get to San Diego for a week in the ocean?  How about one day on the water in a closer location and make that day soon.  Show me your ticket.

What's your #BEST2014 look like.  Start with #MYONETHING.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Guess who I saw in Paris … @LeWeb

You know why people come to Paris.  You don't really have to ask.  People come to Paris to fall in love.

A warm cafe on a cold December day.  The coffee, the wine, the amazing food.  Chocolat chaud ou bien, cafe creme. Sitting with someone you haven't seen in a long time.  Sharing your passion. It's hard to resist. And there's no better place.

I'm there Monday at LeWeb and I expect many of you will be in Paris to fall in love with the next ten years of amazing technology heading our way, or just simply falling in love.  It's so easy.