Look, it’s not you, blogosphere, it’s me. I thought we had something special, but really… well, there’s somebody else…

So I’m sure anyone reading this is already well aware, but for the closure, I thought i’d ‘wrap up’ this blog – or at least put it on pause (somehow I feel like you’re reading this two years later and going “wow… yeah he definitely never posted again”). Anyway, I launched the Rude Baguette with Roxanne Varza and, frankly, there just isn’t enough time for two blogs (plus guest posts on TechCrunch, and writing for Paper.li), so I’d like to formally close this blog thread down.

Thanks for all the good times we had, thanks for reading, and hopefully i’ll see you on the other side.

DidThis brings out our Me-Monster

As Facebook roled out its new Verbs tool, permitting developers to incorporate “high level social actions users can perform,” it became quite obvious that the war was on to capture up all that data from the ‘Action Space.’ While Foursquare lets you share where you go and apps like Staround let you share what you think, Denis Harscoat of DidThis wants to know everything – he wants to know what you do.

When I first met Denis back in September at the Pirate Summit, I was intrigued by what he told me. He said that people want to do things, and they want & need people to encourage them. When we go on a diet, we tell everyone and their mother about it, in hopes that they will encourage us and keep us on track if we should lose our way. When we share with people what we’ve accomplished, we feel validated, and we want to be validated by others that what we’ve done is important – we can all attest to having a bit of the Me Monster in us.

DidThis’s app is still in its early stages – bug fixes, minimalist interface, and a lot of seemingly unnecessary typing – but early adopters can be assured that there feedback suggestsions are being heard. DidThis is currently looking to be one of 5 startups that will pitch at Start In Paris on November 7th – you can vote for them and other startups here.

There is no doubt that the ‘action space’ will become an important one in the next few years. More and more apps will be looking to gather data on various aspects of our lives, now that our social lives are online. Apple’s integration of Siri into its iPhone 4S (yeah, i just bought one) brings us even closer to a fluid interaction between our real lives and our internet lives – the real question is: once I can effortlessly share my every action, who will be best fit to gather this data?

Download DidThis’s iPhone App

Follow Staround on facebook or twitter

Check out some other Startup Articles:

  1. Feedback @VizualizeMe – Where’s the Magic?
  2. An evening with LeLoop, a French Hacker Space
  3. First Impressions of Ignite …. The StartupWeekend of TED Talks

First Impressions of Ignite …. The StartupWeekend of TED Talks.

Last Tuesday evening I attended Ignite #12…

It never ceases to amaze me how amazing the buildings are, in which tech, startup, and hacker events are held. I wrote awhile ago about LeLoop, a Hacker Space located in a squatter space – a beautiful, abandoned office building. This evening I found myself down the street from The Opera, walking into what was clearly the carriage entrance to a wonderful courtyard at one point. Following the signs to Ignite, and joined by my ‘posse’ of tech-geeks (we had all come straight from the Silicon Students event across town), we entered a small class room.

Willy had explained to me what Ignite was on the metro as we had come over – speakers sign up and are given five minutes and a 20 slide maximum to share an idea. The ideas can be about whatever you want, but, more or less, it seems to be in the same spectrum as TED Talks. These aren’t pitches, or plain old life stories, but innovative talks – or at least, that’s the premise.
As we sat in the back of the classroom, I couldn’t help but be more interested in the document of various Wifi usernames and passwords that Willy was sending me than in the topics above. Talks started out with premises such as “the 20th century was the Pre-Google century…” – As if that made any sense.

“Enlighten Us…But Make it Quick.”

While I couldn’t help but make snide comments in the back about the presentations, I also could help but thinking “This is the best idea ever!” I have friends that are Startup Weekend addicts – they go every time one’s going on in France (which, by the way, is like EVERY weekend! W00t second most active Startup Weekend country after the US) – I can TOTALLY see people becoming ‘Ignite Addicts.’ I can tell you that I didn’t enjoy the first event I went to, but I went because it came with an awesome recommendation, and it left me wanting more.
My suggestion: spend the next week or so thinking about an awesome idea, and come to Ignite #13 and rock the house. I think that an event like this provides a great medium for people to bring great ideas forward. Who knows… I might even take the stage for five minutes next time.

Internet Trends 2011 – What does this mean for Europe?

At the Web 2.0 Summit this past week, Mary Meeker, a Morgan Stanley analyst, took the stage and gave a presentation that resounded throughout the tech world. A lot of great statistics were brought up that might make you think about the future of the Internet, and I suggest you read through the whole presentation slowly and take it in the implications of the statistics – but I thought I would talk about something that stood out for me:

What Does this Mean For Europe?

  1. Where’s France on the Top Media Providers? The first statistic brought up (slide 5) was the list of the companies with the top market values in the world. The statistic was intended to show that Chinese companies like Baidu are creeping up this list, as well as Russian companies; however, not one European company made the top 25 list. Europe (and specifically France) needs to take a look at this list and ask itself “what are these companies doing that we aren’t doing?” You may say ‘bigger markets’ or ‘better venture capital,’ but all I read is ‘larger-scale vision’ and ‘more vigorous attitude.’
  2. The Internet is not just for America: The article continued on this global topic, pointing out that  81% of users to the world’s top internet properties are coming from abroad. The implication for US startups is that it will become more and more necessary to think global in their efforts in order to survive. The implication for Europe is that we ARE the market. So often, we wish to go to California to succeed, because we think that is the market, that that is where the money’s at. Well, the money will follow the market, and the market is outside of the US. – European companies need to see that.
  3. Europe is not as excessive as the US… at least in terms of Social Media coverage. The slide pointed out the countries with the top average number of hours spent on social networks, with Israel leading at more than 11 hours. While the list spanned Central America, the Middle East, South America and Asia, not one European country made the list. Perhaps Europe isn’t at social as we think: perhaps social Europeans startups will have to rethink their strategy, if their market isn’t on facebook as much as they thought.
  4. Great Startups don’t just start in the US…. But they definitely make the big money there. Among the examples, Shazam, Spotifyand Soundcloud are great examples of European companies that made it global. I have spoken with a lot of French entrepreneurs, and there seems to be this similar sentiment of “all France needs is a successful French startup to get things really rolling…” and I think there is a greater problem inside that. These three companies above are successful EUROPEAN companies. Just like we don’t differentiate between where Foursquare, Square, and Facebook started, neither can France afford to wait for a company that happens to launch its beta in France. ‘Think Global’ cannot just be a message to US entrepreneurs – it needs to be one for French ones as well.
  5. France may be second in Apple’s heart, but it’s mobile growth is a little behind. With stores in Lyon, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Nice, Lieusaint, Le Chesnay, Velizy, and two in Paris, Apple seems to have made a solid investment in France (FYI: that’s more locations than Spain,  Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong and even China – less than Canada, Australia, and the UK). However, in the charts, France  comes up twelth in terms of total 3G Subscribers, behind China, behind Italy, behind Japan, and behind Spain. With just 39% of the market penetrated in France, this should be a wake-up call to the mobile app developers in the country; nonetheless, Western Europe ships smart phones to a larger percentage of its populations than North America and Japan. That is to say, more than 70% of phones shipped in Western Europe are smart phones, with only 60% in North America. Apparently, we’re buying cell phones, but can’t be bothered to subscribe to 3G plan – that’s what you get when “unlimited” doesn’t mean unlimited.

The data went on to show that, as expected, iPad growth destroyed its predecssors growth, mobile search and overall internet use is growing, eCommerce is growing, and suggested that Online Audio was the an up-and-coming trend. These topics are universal in their implications, so I’ll leave you to explore and make your own deductions on those fronts. I think that this presentation represents a larger movement that Roxanne Varza and I could attest to: startups are moving out of the Silicon Valley, and if they aren’t, they need to. US VCs will begin looking outside their hometowns, or even moving out of the US in order to find those new gems in the right market. I think the important thing for France and all European countries to start thinking about is: Will you be ready when that kind of VC funding comes knocking on your door?

Five Reasons TechCrunchFR Sucks

I read. I read now more than ever. In school, I bought books and never read them because I hated that I was tested on them, but now that it’s up to me, I read all the time. I bought a printer, stapler, and notebooks for all the miscellaneous blog posts I’ve wanted to read and thought “this will be useful later” (PS: TechCrunch, seriously, work on your Print Version!); however, unfortunately, what should be my go-to resource, TechCrunchFR, gets little to no attention from me. I have made known my complaints about TechCrunchFR before, but, after discussing with a few other people and getting their agreement and input, I thought I’d make it official. So here are my 5 Reasons Why TechCrunchFR Sucks:

  1. Refusing to Write articles in English – I get it. France speaks French, so TechCrunchFR is in French. That’s all fine and dandy, except that no one outside of France can read this. TechCrunchEU (formally TechCrunchUK – clearly TechCrunch made their bid for the European Tech Capital) is consistently cross-posted to the TechCrunch main site – this will never happen for the French articles, because they are not in English. How does France expect to compete in the European Startup Scene, and international community, if they can’t even communicate outside their borders?
  2. Out of Date Website – TechCrunchEU has full integration with Facebook comments, and yet TechCrunchFR is stuck with a comment form. This is an integration that was made over 7 months ago, and probably soon after in Europe, and yet, from what I hear, the TechCrunchFR team is still debating with the US team to get it done, which leads me to my third point. 
  3. No Respect from the US Team – I have been told by someone who used to work at TechCrunchFR that there is little to no respect coming from the US team, whether it be getting technical upgrades, or on the editorial side. [This sentence has been removed]Given that at the time, there was only one paid employee for TechCrunchFR, and the rest were unpaid contributors with full-time jobs or university to attend, this demonstrates well the care that the TechCrunch US team has for their French brethren.
  4. Don't try to tell me startups aren't hiring in France...

    Crunchboard is a joke! – Seriously, break down the numbers. To post on the US Crunchboard (the main site), you pay $200 for one post – this is understandable, as it even costs $75 to post jobs on Craigslist in California. Jump over to the UKCrunchboard, and you’ll find a more reasonable £20 charge per post. To post on the French Crunchboard: €150. Are you freaking kidding me? No wonder the French Crunchboard is empty, who would pay that to post in France? Given the exchange rate, it’s actually MORE expensive (by 86 cents, on October 9th) to post a single job post  on the French Crunchboard than on the US Site – I highly doubt the traffic lines up. Without this resource, TechCrunchFR loses yet another battle to be the go-to French Startup resource that it is in the UK and US.

  5. No Marketing and No Love for the local – Nevermind the fact that the articles read like press releases (no offense, Selma), the articles only ever talk about French startups raising capital, or being bought. What about events going on throughout France? What about showing how France approaches startups? What about editorials instead of just press releases? In addition, there seems to be little to no attempt at marketing the site or its posts.


I recall seeing a post finally go up for The Pirate Summit, which took place just over the border in Cologne, Germany, 5 days before the event. What good is talking about an event 3 days before it happens? It’s already too late to book your ticket and get set up (although the Pirate Summit guys did tell me that they got 4 tickets sold from that article… still!). I want notifications on the Early Bird ticket prices for the Dublin Web Summit, or news about Startup Week in Vienna. Let me know what’s going on around me, so that I can be immersed in the Startup World!

I think I’ve given up on TechCrunchFR….

The startups they talk about are not revolutionary (price comparers, European clones, and shopping assistants), and I never get the feeling that the author is any more enthused about the topic than I am. France needs to get the word about its startup world – no one out there is translating our French blogs, and so no one knows how incredible the startups are here. I want the TechCrunchFR site to be amazing, because I know how amazing TechCrunch is, but lately I’ve even begun giving up on TechCrunch as well. I don’t think TechCrunchFR will be the solution to France’s problems – I think something new will.

According to Google €150 = $200.86

How So-Lo-Mo is Impeding Innovation

How do so many search "Fat Boy Chairs" and find my blog!?

I would consider myself a pretty well practiced person in the world of pitches, at least in terms of having viewed them. I’ve stayed up late watching Demo Days & pitch battles livestreamed from the Silicon Valley. I’ve seen startups pitch across Europe. Most recently, I’ve begun watching the Bloomberg TV reality series TechStars, which follows the first round of companies from the Techstars New York incubator.

I’ve seen European clones, Freemium business models from hell, and I’ve seen platform dependency like nobody’s business. You know what I’m really tired of? “we’re adding a gamification layer to our geolocalized social app”

…Shut the hell up! You’re a service for calling taxis!…

Some of the best criticism I’ve heard from a VC, which I have been quoting whenever relevant, came from a VC on the panel judging the startup pitches at the Pirate Summit. After one startup described their service, and all the social plugins and capabilities, he said “I like your product, but forget all this social bullshit. Your service ISNT social.”

Too many startups think that taking a problem and turning it Social, Local, and Mobile will solve it. Well guess what? It doesn’t. Just like a bad business model,  the wrong plug-ins, the wrong direction of your product will lead to failure. SoLoMo Attributes need to seen, not as add-ons, but as commitments to vision – when you make a decision to be social, you have to adapt your entire product and business model (which SHOULD NOT be entirely based on this feature) to that feature, which means that you inherently pull away from other features and business models that were previously available to you.

Building a startup is not like taking a set of Legos and building a machine, it’s more like taking a large cube of marble, and chipping away at it until you get what you want. Every time you chip away a piece, you get rid of possibilities for your final result – and if you want to go back and put that piece back in, you’re better off just starting from the block again.

So before you decide to launch your Geolocalized social mobile app for farmers (seriously… I’ve seen it pitched), make sure that  it’s not coming at the expense of another more valuable, relevant feature.

Feedback @VizualizeMe – Where’s the Magic?

A while back I was chatting with Deborah Rippol, European Coordinator for Startup Weekend, and I told her I wasn’t too impressed with Startup Weekend Toronto winners VisualizeMe. She mentioned this to Visualize me, and they invited my feedback – well, here it goes:

Dear Visualize.Me,

I think the origin to your product is wonderful. CVs are boring, and a little info graphic touch would be wonderful – but here’s the problem: I can see where this graphic is coming from. I can almost guess the raw code that pulled my interests off and assigned them to a certain color scheme. I like that you let me play with the colors, the themes, and even edit the information to keep it up to date – but where’s the magic?

When I use Facebook, I can’t even fathom the processes running in the background – I spent a half hour trying to figure out how I could start listening to music and change pages without the music stopping. I spent a long time making my Linkedin Profile (and it’s out of date already, ugh!), and to see that you’re just taking it, painting it new colors, and representing information in a different format…

…I almost feel like your stealing my work and calling it your own…

I understand that you are in beta, and I think that for a beta – and for a Startup Weekend company – you’re pretty damn awesome, but you need to pull the wool over my eyes a little. I often hear startups pitching ‘amazing algorithms’ and ‘using social graphs,’ and I am left disappointed when I realize that the algorithm is nothing more than some quick math on a few social graph indicators.

I’ve been going crazy over Klout recently, because I can’t quite figure out how they come up with their number – but they seem to always be right. When I am less involved, even if I tweet and am mentioned the same amount, it seems to realize that my participation is less than normal – that’s magic. Leave me guessing how you did it, leave me wanting to see it again, so I can figure out how it works – that’s stickiness.

I look forward to how this product develops, and I see a lot of value in a product that provides an info graphic for a CV. Keep up the good work,