Archive by Author - Tom Foremski

Silicon Valley Geeks Can Learn From European Geeks…

by on December 23, 2009 at 4:07 am

Silicon Valley Geeks and Parisian Geeks have a lot in common: lots of passion, great ideas and they speak the lingua franca of “geek.”

But there is an important difference, as Beth Blecherman at Techmamas recently found on a visit to LeWeb:

While Silicon Valley geeks put on a clean tee shirt for tech conferences, European geekstake it up a notch. Here is a random geek waiting in line for LeWeb. I told him I was chronicling European Geek Chic. He looked confused but smiled for the camera. To top it off, he and many other Euro-geeks paired the geek uniform of jeans with a nice pair of (non-sneaker) shoes.

Just to keep up with the style, I put on every black and stylish piece of clothing I had. If I had time, I would of shopped from the assortment of beautiful french scarves to take my outfit up a notch.

Please see the full post, where Beth also looks for European girl geeks, which are even rarer than here:

Techmamas: Geek is a Global Language – But Twitter is Not (yet)

(From an original article by Tom Foremski)

Paris Diary: LeWeb Roundup – Vacuous Social Media Messages; LeWeb A Pay-To- Present Platform; and YouTube Millionaires…

by on December 14, 2009 at 4:23 am

(LeWeb conference floor – photo by David Spark.)

The beauty of the blogging approach to news is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If someone has written up a great story, you can simply point to it instead of trying to recreate it.

At LeWeb I was part of the Traveling Geeks group, and the group was producing a lot of great content. Here is a selection: (more…)

(From an original article by Tom Foremski)

Paris Diary: Slow Start To LeWeb09; ‘Too Many Americans’; Chandeliers and Silicon Valley Exiles…

by on December 10, 2009 at 6:26 am

LeWeb ’09, France’s top web conference kicked off yesterday in a cavernous hall in a grey slab-like building out in the suburbs of Paris.

Initially, there were complaints about there being ‘too many Americans’ and that the quality of the panels was poor — too much fluff and self-promotion, and little substance.

But by the afternoon things improved a lot and there was a 180 degree turnaround in opinion – at least among the people I spoke with.

It’s true that there were lots of Americans. I seemed to be constantly bumping into familiar faces, people I see all the time, such as Jeremiah Owyang, Dave McClure, Cathy Brooks, Chris and Kristie Wells, Robert Scoble, Brian Solis, Gabe Rivera, Steve Gillmor, and many more.

[Please see: Silicon Valley Goes To Paris… Le Web ’09] (more…)

(From an original article by Tom Foremski)

Paris Diary: Putting “French” Back Into Entrepreneur

by on December 10, 2009 at 2:01 am

The quality of the French startups we have been meeting with all week, has been very good.

It seems as if the French can once again claim back ‘entrepreneur’ instead of it being sometimes derisively labelled as an oxymoron in the French context.

But it seems to be a fairly recent phenomenon and one that relies on a compelling mix of government programs and tax breaks. While many countries have tried to encourage the formation of startups through various incentives, the French appear to have gotten the mix just right.

It wouldn’t surprise me if in the near future, some US startups might choose Paris as a headquarters because of some of the advantages they can gain here, compared with an indifferent US government. (more…)

(From an original article by Tom Foremski)

Paris Diary: The Joie de Vivre of French Entrepreneurs…

by on December 8, 2009 at 3:07 pm

I’m bowled over by the French startups and entrepreneurs I’ve been meeting the past two days. Lots of passion, energy, smarts, and great ideas.

I’m totally surprised because I had a totally different expectation. France has a reputation for bureaucracy ( a French word), for strikes, (the taxi drivers were on strike on Tuesday), and for archaic attitudes such as a strong belief in a maintaining a work/life balance, six-week vacations, a 35-hour week, and making it near impossible to fire a worker (you will receive as much as three years full salary if you are fired).

It seems amazing that France’s economy hasn’t shattered into pieces by now, and the country hasn’t fallen below the waves of the ocean as a modern day Atlantis.

Instead, France has the highest labor productivity levels of all the G8 nations. And the quality of its entrepreneurs (another French word) is excellent.

I will be writing in more detail about some of the companies and people I’ve been meeting, later this week. And I’ll be diving into why there is such a great current of innovation happening in France.

The French model might even become a template for other countries. That’s because people from other countries are coming to France to set up their startups. Other countries risk a brain drain if they don’t act to create a similar environment.

I’ll let you know tomorrow about some of the reasons why France is enjoying an upswing its startup communities. I think you will be as surprised as I was.

[I’m in Paris all this week as part of the Traveling Geeks, a collection of journalists, bloggers, and PR people meeting with French startups and also attending LeWeb, France’s premier Web 2.0 developer and business conference.]

(From an original article by Tom Foremski)

Paris Diary: The International Geek Brotherhood…

by on December 7, 2009 at 3:21 pm

[I’m in Paris all this week as part of the Traveling Geeks, a collection of journalists, bloggers, and PR people meeting with French startups and also attending LeWeb, France’s premier Web 2.0 developer and business conference.]

I took the EuroStar train from London on Sunday afternoon and in less than 3 hours I was in the middle of Paris. That trip always amazes me and it is so much nicer, (and greener) than flying.

When I arrived it was raining off and on but that didn’t matter because I was back in Paris after a ten year break.

I had to find my hotel, about a couple of miles from my terminus at Gare Du Nord but being short on cash I decided to walk in roughly the right direction, trundling my wheeled travel bag across cobble stone streets, and relishing being in one of the great cities of the world. (more…)

(From an original article by Tom Foremski)

Silicon Valley Goes To Paris… Le Web ’09

by on November 30, 2009 at 1:13 pm

I’m heading to Paris for the Le Web conference next week then spending the rest of December in London.

I’ll be attending Le Web as part of the “Traveling Geeks” [misspelling deliberate], organized by Renee Blodgett. Also on the trip: Eliane Fiolet, , Robin Wauters, Kim-Mai Cutler, Frederic Lardinois, Matt Buckland, Sky Schuyler, Jerome Tranie, Ewan Spence, David Spark, Olivier Ezratty, Cyrille de Lasteyrie, Amanda Coolong, Beth Blecherman, and Phil Jeudy.

Le Web is Europe’s premiere conference and organized by Loic Le Meur, from Seesmic. (more…)

(From an original article by Tom Foremski)

Behind The Scenes – Traveling Geeks 2009

by on July 27, 2009 at 2:58 pm

My recent trip with the Traveling Geeks to the UK was an intense week consisting of many events and meetings with European startups, government agencies, conferences, panels, and some remarkable experiences.

My son Matt joined me part of the way through. In this video you’ll see my fellow Traveling Geeks and friends: Robert Scoble, Rocky Barbanica, Renee Blodgett, Ayelet Noff, Sarah Lacy, JD Lasica, Meghan Asha, Craig Newmark, Susan Bratton, Jeff Saperstein, Howard Rheingold, Sky Schuyler, Mitzi Szereto, Heddi Cundle, Mark Adams, Paul Carr, Hermione Way, Mike Butcher, Mathys van Abbe . . . and many more.

[BTW, the Facebook video embed is so much better quality than YouTube and many other video sites.]

Innovation And Culture – Reflections On My UK Trip

by on July 20, 2009 at 9:08 pm

I just got back from the UK spending much of my time with the Traveling Geeks, a group of leading Silicon Valley bloggers and journalists meeting with UK government agencies, UK tech companies, and startups.

It was a very good trip. Here are some notes:

– There are some well established UK startups with good business models and they are profitable. One example is, which trades show tickets between fans. Spotify and Spinvox are also doing very well. Are they still startups if they have a business model and are profitable?

– Startups face the same problems as those here – funding. There are very UK VC firms and few angels. One estimate I was given was that in the Cambridge area there was just 5 million pounds ($8.26m) available for VC investments. A puny amount. Some startups are seriously considering relocating to the US for better access to investment capital.

– Successful European entrepreneurs have a tendency to go sailing and not come back. But that’s not always true. I met some serial entrepreneurs in Cambridge: Stuart Evans, chairman of Novacem, a developer of a unique type of “green” concrete;RichardGreen.jpg Richard Green (photo), CEO of Ubisense; sherrycoutu.jpgthe very impressive Sherry Coutu, (photo)a rare woman serial entrepreneur and one of the hosts of our Cambridge tour; also Steve Kennedy from Nettek.

– Cambridge Innovation. The area around Cambridge University is known as Silicon Fen and represents the European innovation capital. There is more money invested in innovation in this region than anywhere else in Europe. A key part of this infrastructure is the organization Cambridge Angels. I met a couple of the Cambridge Angels (Stuart Evans and Richard Green.) It’s an impressive organization with an interesting portfolio.

– Lots of government agencies and organizations to encourage innovation. At times it seemed as if we were meeting with larger numbers of representatives of groups encouraging startups than with innovators.

DavidRiches.jpgIt was good to meet again with David Riches, chief executive of East of England International, which helps companies get established in Silicon Fen. I had met him three years ago when he was running Think London. Also represented was NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts – “A unique and independent body with a mission to make the UK more innovative.”

– UK is not great for startups. The UK government wants to encourage more startups but it’s a tough place to start companies. Taxes are high and stock options are taxed unfavorably. There is a shortage of talent and salaries are high. But there has been a slight shift in the culture, there is more tolerance of failure these days. But a good job and salary is still more highly valued than a job at a startup.

– Watching the news n the UK is interesting. Much of it is taken up with stories about the government; the government said this today; the government issued a report today; the government is looking at this; the government needs to do this… In the US there is a healthy distrust of the government and far fewer government stories or an expectation that the government needs to do “something.”

– Gadgets and dongles. We were giving some gadgets to try out:

— Nokia allowed us to use their Nokia N79 phone with the Symbian interface. The phone was a solid piece of hardware, excellent photos and good video. The Symbian interface however, was horrible. I couldn’t believe how bad it was, we were all complaining about it. It was far from intuitive and it took far too many steps for the simplest of operations – including something simple as answering the phone. The BT sim card worked reasonably well (it uses the Vodaphone network) but data services didn’t work at all on my phone.

— We were given BT dongles, wireless USB modems that we used with our laptops. These worked well in most places around London. However, because of all the video we were shooting and processing, we quickly ran through our bandwidth allocations without knowing it and spent several days trying to troubleshoot the dongles. BT increased our bandwidth caps and they worked fine but it would have been good to know that this was the problem.

— Intel let us use some MIDS (Mobile Internet Devices.) I played with an Mbook from Uvid. It’s got a cool touchscreen display, nice size but everything was tiny – it tries to display Windows XP on a very small screen. I’m not a fan of MIDs or of Netbooks. I generally find the form factor too small to be useful and their performance subpar. They seem to combine the worst aspects of a cell phone and a notebook. In terms of a light and small form factor, the Macbook Air is still the best, imho.

We also had the new Flip Ultra. Although many digital cameras have great video for the same price, it was handy to have this easy to use “one-click” device. The quality of the video is excellent but I wish I could plug in an external microphone. It also does well as a regular camera, I was pulling some great single shots from its MP4 video.

Here is a list of my posts about my UK trip in chronological order:

Sunday – Arrival and Tweetup in Chelsea

UK Startups Look For Funding And Escape From Echo Chamber

Digital Inclusion And The Moral Obligations Towards Tech Education

Monday – Reboot Britain – The Traveling Geeks Help Out

Monday – The Geeks Eat Dinner At The Top Of The World

Tuesday – Seed Camp’s High-flyers

Tuesday – It Never Rains But It Pours . . . More BT Innovation

Tuesday – Guardian Newspaper Media Panel . . .

A Guardian Newspaper Media Panel, Twitter, From Back to Front And Beyond…

Tuesday – Back To Soho and Dinner With

Wednesday – Humpday – Lunch With Skype

Wednesday – Time-Off For Good/Bad Behavior

Thursday – A Visit To Accel Partners – UK Is Tough On Startups

Thursday – Ecoconsultancy At Shakespeare’s Globe – Why Innovate?

Thursday – SVW Goes To The Europas . . .

Friday – Cambridge Startups

Friday – Cambridge Consultants, Nokia And Microsoft Research Labs

Friday – Looking For Ghosts In Peterhouse College Founded 1284

Also, lots of excellent coverage from my fellow Traveling Geeks here.

– In addition to the people I mentioned in my articles above, it was great to meet and talk with: Karyn Barnes from East of England International (excellent host); Jon Garside, sales director of Syphan Technologies; Michael Litman; Kai Turner, head of information architecture at; Mike Ferg (@MikeyFerg); Wendy Tan-White. founder of Moonfruit; Vincent Camara, founder,; Nancy Vega, Said Business school Oxford; Alistair Morely technology director at Cambridge Consultants; Oo Nwoye co-founder of Onepage; Professor Ian Leslie, Cambridge University; Amanda Horton-Mastin, Innovation Director at Comic Relief; Rudolph Rosini, Ecec VP at Cellcrypt; Nitin Dahad at Techspark; William Tunstall-Pedoe, CEO of Trueknowledge; Luke Brynley-Jones, Managing Director at School For Startups; Matt Rogers, co-founder of Aroxo.

UK Diary: Friday – Cambridge Startups

by on July 20, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Friday and the Traveling Geeks are in Cambridge, the innovation capital of Europe.

After presentations by Cambridge university representatives and also from government agencies helping startups, the Traveling Geeks take part in a panel and also hear presentations from local startups.

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