We Meet Loïc Le Meur, Founder of LeWeb, Europe’s Biggest Tech Conference

The NextWomen Europe Theme

Loïc Le Meur is a serial entrepreneur based in San Francisco. Loïc co-founded the #1 European tech event LeWeb. Each year in Paris, LeWeb brings together in Paris 3,500 entrepreneurs, brands, geeks, investors and press from 76 countries. According to The Economist, "LeWeb is where revolutionaries gather to plot the future". LeWeb launched in London following its huge success in Paris and was acquired by Reed Exhibitions in 2012.

Before founding LeWeb, Loïc successfully started and sold four companies: a social networking app Seesmic, acquired by Hootsuite; one of the first blogging services in Europe, Ublog, acquired by Six Apart (now Say Media); a web hosting company, Rapidsite Franc,e acquired by France Telecom; and a web agency B2L acquired by BBDO (Omnicom group).

Loïc was named one of "Europe's Tech25" by the Wall Street Journal as well as one of the "25 most influential people" on the web by Business Week He is featured in The Economist as one of "Europe's Blooming Entrepreneurs", and was named a "Young Global Leader" by the World Economic Forum, where he helps select the next Tech Pioneers and is a regular speaker.

Loïc loves kite-surfing and running. He is proud to have finished the New York Marathon in 3h48 minutes.

We spoke to Loïc about the trends he’s observed in the European tech industry over the years; his suggestions for fostering entrepreneurship and innovation in Europe; and his fantasy keynote speaker for LeWeb!

TNW: What are the key trends which have emerged in European tech entrepreneurship since you founded LeWeb in 2004?

LLM: More entrepreneurs is the most significant trend.

We are getting about 1000 applications to our startup competition every year and that is an incredible growth; we used to have only a hundred or so.

It's a great sign for the European tech entrepreneurship scene.  

TNW: Le Web has boasted an impressive array of speakers, including Google's Marissa Mayer, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, YouTube founder Chad Hurley, Designer Philippe Starck and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. From all your years at LeWeb, which speaker has left the biggest impression on you and why?

LLM: The two fireside chats that were the most impressive for me were Google's Eric Schmidt and Fashion star Karl Lagerfeld, just because they were totally unusual and very rare in Europe. I enjoy having at least one guest every year not from the tech industry as we all learn from them.

Watching Karl Lagerfeld sketch a drawing of Steve Jobs on his iPad was a lifetime memory.

Let's not discount the effect of Philippe Starck explaining creativity using designing furniture for sex as an illustration; he wowed the entire room!

TNW: In a fantasy world, who would you most like to see speak at Le Web (a living person or someone from history)?

LLM: I have been trying to get Richard Branson to speak for many years, but unfortunately his team always respond that it's $200k or more for his charity to get him to share with our audience, and we cannot afford that! It's a shame because I'm a huge fan of Richard. I will not give up and keep trying! Top of my list currently is Elon Musk, there is no other entrepreneur worldwide that impresses me more these days

Everything he does succeeds: reinventing the car industry, the solar industry and even the space industry. Unbelievable.

TNW: What could Europe and the US learn from each other in terms of entrepreneurship? 

LLM: American entrepreneurs tend to be too US-centric when they launch and not think internationally enough, while European entrepreneurs generally have international plans in mind much earlier.  

TNW: Where do you see the opportunities in Europe?

LLM:

London, Berlin and Paris are definitely the three most active cities in technology. 

TNW: What is the recipe for expansion in Europe? First, get a strong foothold in your own country, or internationalize quickly?

LLM: I'm always in favor of quick internationalization if there is good initial traction, otherwise you tend to get copies fast in other countries before you even had the time to go. 

TNW: Please give us three examples of up-and-coming European Startups you admire, and why. 

LLM: 

Spotify, SoundCloud and Supercell have had an incredible expansion and are world class. They are also very unique in what they do and have never tried to copy an existing model in Silicon Valley. 

TNW: At The NextWeb’s April European conference in Amsterdam, Neelie Kroes stated, “I have a European Dream, too. That Europe becomes a place where entrepreneurs and innovators start and stay – before growing globally.” To underscore her strong commitment to make Europe a leader in the tech world, she gave her personal e-mail address to the crowd and asked that they contact her with ideas on how Europe can do more to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. We’ll be interviewing Neelie later this month. What is your suggestion for fostering innovation and entrepreneurialism in Europe? 

LLM:

I think it's a long term plan that Europe needs, such as teaching entrepreneurship as early as high school.

There should be many more entrepreneurs launching a business in Europe, the problem is they have generally been taught it's too complicated and are risk averse, that's why we need to start early.

Otherwise the real problem european startups have is flexibility of labor, they do not dare to hire as in case things don't go well firing has such a high cost compared to Silicon Valley. The rule "hire slow fire fast" is too difficult to apply in most european Countries. It's a difficult problem to solve for governments but ideally technology startups should be allowed to hire and fire in a more flexible way. 

TNW: You are an occasional angel investor. Which companies have you funded? What do you look for in a business when considering whether to invest?

LLM: I have invested in about 20 startups as an angel such as LinkedIn, Evernote or LendingClub. In all cases it's the founding team that convinces me much more than the idea itself.

Most startups will change their models along the way so I would say the most important quality is a founder or founding team that is capable of changing really fast and adapting their model constantly.

TNW: Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you would like to share with our community?

LLM: nope, all good!

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