On Friday 6th, The Next Web conference was held in Amsterdam. I attended as a representative of Tractis and I must say that it beat my expectations. I met all my objectives and a few more. I met entrepreneurs, found out about their start-ups and investors, and met people who are quite powerful in the Internet world.
The day before
I arrived on Thursday 6th and, on that same night, I attended a pre-conference party at a place called The Mansion. There were some investors of 3i, TVM-Capital… but, above all, there were entrepreneurs making contacts by the ton: Jan Miczaikaka, CEO of HitFlip.de (online bartering), Willem Balkerna, CEO of Second Home Market, Kasper Luursema and Joost Luback of EYEFI.nl (web consulting firm), etc.
The conference was on the 7th and there were some surprises. Just after the start, it was announced that Kevin Rose of Digg was not going to attend and, in his place, there would be a videoconference with Jay Adelson (CEO of Digg). The list of speakers included people like Steven Pemberton of W3C, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch and Marc Tluscz of Mangrove Capital Partners (the company that invested in Skype). Steven stated that declarative programming languages were the future. He mentioned a study which shows that a larger number of code lines increases the number of bugs exponentially. When he was asked about RoR, he answered that it was “a good language in a good direction” but it still needed some things. Michael stated that he did not understand the people who complain that “many Web 2.0 applications seem to be the same” since the continued reformulation and re-use of ideas (even those that have previously failed) is the key to evolution. I liked Marc Tluscz’s explanation about Mangrove’s investment criterion: “companies that break paradigms“. He stated that, when Skype was simply an idea, the founders presented him the project and told him “look, we’re going to create a software that enables people to talk free and which will bring all telcos to their knees“. Marc asked the audience: “How could we resist?” However, Paul Molenaar of Ilse Media (the Netherlands’ largest online publisher) remembers the story in a different way. In his presentation, he stated that “When Niklas Zënstrom came to Ilse to seek financing, he spent 15 minutes explaining the idea and 45 minutes explaining how he was going to sell the company”.
At the end of each speech, there were 10 minutes in which several companies (WidSets, eSnips, Plazes, Netvibes, AllPeers, Hyves) presented their services. In the coffee breaks between presentations, I explained Tractis to Michael Arrington. To my surprise, he was very interested in the idea, he asked me quite a lot of questions, and said that he would participate in the Beta . I told Marc Tluscz that I loved his presentation and believed that Tractis had the disruptive potential that Mangrove was seeking. He told me that he wanted to go further into the idea; I’ll tell you what has been the result. It wasn’t all a bed of roses. At midday, it was time to do the elevator pitch to the people from Atlas Venture. I was in the elevator with Marc Oiknine. I told him my full pitch, 30 seconds, from “We want to create a legal system for the Internet nation…” to the end. When Marc said “I don’t know if that’s an interesting area“, I remember thinking “WTF!? What could be more interesting?”.
Kevin Kelly rocks!!
In general, the level of speakers was very high but, if I have to choose a single presentation, I have to select Kevin Kelly’s (editor of Wired and author of “New Rules for The New Economy“). He described the web in quantitative terms and stated that it was interesting that the amount of hyperlinks, clicks, data transmission, etc. corresponded quite accurately to the number of synapses, neurons and activity of the human brain. He referred to the Internet as a unique machine, of which we form part and which searches us as we search it. His speech was, at least at a personal level, inspiring and full of brilliant quotes like “The web runs on love and attention, not greed“. It looked like the birth of a religion and Kevin was its high priest. The web has only been around for 4,000 days yet every thing we ever said about the Internet is happening. The web is growing rapidly, every thing “wants” to be in the web, the web is everything and the web will own every bit. He said that many complain about the web 2.0′s hype but, according to him, “the web is under-hyped“. For me and others, that was the conference’s “quote”. The best is yet to come .
A detailed description about Kevin Kelly’s speech can be seen in The Yourdon Report: The Next Web: Kevin Kelly’s Keynote
After the conference
After the conference, there was a party at Boris’, one of the organizers, followed by another party until the early hours of the morning at Jimmy Woo. From what I hear, it’s one of Amsterdam’s most select clubs. I had a great time with Fabian (yes, I’m the one with half a head) of the Outfoxed project, the 19-year old Tariq Krim of netvibes, Diederik of TwOnes, Kat Orland of SEOmoz and Web 2.0 Awards….
The Next Web was an excellent opportunity to meet people behind the best European start-ups. And all this in a very beautiful city. The weather was great. There were houses at ground level (without curtains!), friendly people on their porches drinking wine and eating dinner, and boats with groups of friends sailing along the canals. It was like a Bohemian Hobbiton. Congratulations to Patrick and Boris of Fleck, the event’s organizers, for an excellent job. I can’t wait to 11 May 2007 to attend the next edition.