LeWeb shows part of the Innovation World’s Diversity, but needs more Southern Exposure

The best thing about LeWeb (December 3-6, Paris) is the the huge amount of countries represented. The 3,500 attendees came from “almost 70 countries,” says event co-founder Géraldine Le Meur, who founded the conference – now in its ninth year along with her husband, Loïc. The couple, originally from France, are based in California.

Conferences are a vital part of bringing diversity and openess to the innovation process, and these two conditions are vital to the process itself. I talked about this earlier, when profiling Arabnet.me, which creates a space where entrepreneurs and innovators from around the Arab world can meet in various locations to share their stories. LeWeb goes a bit further, bringing together American and European startups.

U.S. conferences are geared primarily towards its own enormous market. LeWeb, on the other hand, bridges the United States and European Union, so it attracts a lot of startups from nearby countries like Russia and Israel, countries with a large footprint at LeWeb.

Personally, I wish it was a little more diverse. Less than 10% of the conference participants were from Asia, Latin America or Africa, as Olivier Ezratty noted in his in-depth summary (in French).

Despite this, Le Web signifies two things to me: one, that innovation is happening everywhere – even in Europe. Second, that well-organized conferences can be a great breeding ground for innovation; and the more diverse, the better.

Now to more a more concrete overview:

This year’s theme was the internet of things, using internet technology to enable objects to send and receive information. This involves computers and phones as well as sensors, machines and clothing, and can include spaces, like squares and monuments. Fifty billion objects will be connected to each other by 2020. Each will have a unique IP address, and the amount of data it generates will be astounding. And problematic.

The best, and most intelligent, presentation was by Rafi Haladjian. (If you read French, you can read a great interview with him here.)  Haladijan has been working toward the internet of things for four years. Part of his presentation that really resonates (and is worth remembering) is this quote: “A good connected object lets you forget it’s there.”

The internet of things wasn’t the only topic

Facebook announced that it will soon be possible to use its Messenger service without an account, requiring just a user’s name and phone number. This won’t solve the company’s mobile problems, but could lead to greater adoption in regions like Africa.

Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, an incredibly useful app for keeping notes and saving web documents announced the launch of Evernote business, which allows a company’s employees to share their knowledge, while keeping their personal notes private.

Among the noteworthy startups were Muse, developed by Canada’s Interaxon. It’s an emotion-tracking headband linked via Bluetooth to a computer or phone. It should eventually allow users to control electronic devices with their brainwaves.

In the conference’s startup competition, the runner-up was actually the most interesting. BeBound lets smartphone users to manage their data via SMS, without using costly 3G. There is a huge opportunity here.

“We started from a simple fact: 3G networks only cover 14% of the planet while 2G covers 86%. We let users connect to the internet via 2G,” Albert Szulman told the Nouvel Observerateur. Finally, people are thinking about regions beyond Silicon Valley and the Northern Hemisphere’s capital cities.

That said, I fell in love with a Greek startup, which I’ll discuss about in my next post.

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