LeWeb09 Day Two: Controversy Continues with Gary Vaynerchuk

Le Web Paris 09 logoLeWeb09 will be most remembered for a frenetic Gary Vaynerchuk, and a debate that questioned the validity of the event itself.

Gary Vaynerchuk, host Wine Library TV and author CrushIT!

Gary Vaynerchuk easily stole the show, his passionate, often controversial comments keeping LeWeb founder and moderator, Loic Le Meur on edge.

At one point, Le Meur corrected Vaynerchuk’s use of “conference” to describe LeWeb, insisting “community” was more accurate. Vaynerchuck instantly fired back, “OK, if this  is a f****** community, then why are we up here talking and not doing a Q&A?”

Met with cheers and applause, Vaynerchuk then added, “I refuse to come back next year unless my entire presentation is Q&A!”

Once  the turbo-charged Vaynerchuk left the stage, Le Meur looked at the audience and said tongue-in-cheek, “Wow, Gary’s … demanding!”

Vaynerchuk’s Twitter Sound Bytes

Demanding or not, Vaynerchuk generated the most enthusiastic response from the LeWeb09 “community.” Rapid-fire tweets of the following sound bytes  came at a speed that rivaled Vaynerchuk’s own gunshot delivery:


– “Word of mouth converts 80%, classic adverts 12%”

– “The less you bull**** …  the more upside you have as a company.”

– “The consumer internet is just 15 years’ old; it hasn’t even had sex yet and it’s dominating us!!”


– “Over last 36 months with Twitter and Facebook, we are being connected where word of mouth explodes.”

– “If you don’t care about customers and care about delivering for them, you’re going to lose them.”


– “Small town rules are going to start to apply, like the bakers dozen, getting 13 for the price of 12.”

– “You don’t need to the Oprah of wine, you can be the Geraldo, the Rikki Lake or Sally Jessy Raphael.”

– “I vomit in my mouth when people come to me and say, ‘Here’s my three-year plan.'”

Ironically, Vaynerchuk provoked more interest and controversy than Violet Blue, author, bloggist, and self-proclaimed “Sex Futurist” whose academic delivery and irrelevant commentary did nothing to help her misfortune to follow him on the program. As one tweeter aptly put it, “”Sex is not boring. Talking about Sex is boring. Here it is the proof: @violetblue at #leweb.”

LeWeb all-male gang debates Silicone Valley vs. Europe

The “European Gang” panel got off to a rocky start, setting the tone of the discussion

Panel moderator, British Author and Columnist  Paul Carr,  a vocal critic of the 2008 event, pointed out that while Le Meur originally started LeWeb to support Europe development in the Web industry, he has himself since moved to Silicon Valley, a controversial if not potentially hypocritical move.

“You’ve run a conference called LeWeb that celebrates Europe, yet you were the first to hop a plane. You’re in Silicon Valley, you have investors.  How do the two fit together, how are you not a hypocrite?” Carr challenged. “You are a obviously a huge supporter of the European scene, and say startups can succeed here, yet you don’t live here.”

“I have a team in Europe,” replied Le Meur  “The way I reconcile it is not to care about it too much. The reason LeWeb is in Paris and staying in Paris is I think it helps people to think global. We have 50 countries in this room…I don’t care if we are in the U.S. or Europe.  In fact, I don’t think this entire panel is relevant!”

The viability of European startups: LeWeb panelists speak out

The discussion then continued to circle around the following questions: Why doesn’t Europe produce more startups? Can a startup based in Europe compete on a global scale?

– “The whole thing is not to think in terms of Frenchmen in the Valley or someone trying to scale a startup in Croatia,  and then go global, but to think in terms of who’s got a big market and how do we take it? Mike Butcher, Editor TechCrunch Europe


– “There is no doubt that Europe is capable of giving birth to people, and I’ve seen it happen.  We had a whole thing at school about it!” – Paul Carr

“The scale problem is partly regulation and partly culture and language.” – JP Rangaswami, Chief Scientist BT

– “What I would like to see is more openness and sharing form entrepreneurs who have made it back down the food change.  if you were a start up and made it, why are you not mentoring another startup? – Mike Butcher

LeWeb09 all-male Gillmor Gang less explosive

Two observations of a more sedate Gillmor Gang deserve mention.

1. There were no women in the nine-member gang (aptly noted in numerous tweets to @leweb, while no mention of fact the 11-member European Gang was also 100% male).

2. An awkward moment for Twitter’s Jack Dorsey when conversation on dangers of openness in relation to Google’s dominance, who was pressured to confirm if the the rumor on Google to acquire Twitter was true.  Instead of a flat denial, Dorsey fueled speculation by stating “There have been no announcements yet.”

Startup entrepreneurs competition: 16 companies, three winners

With all the ideas and discussion, it is easy to overlook LeWeb’s support of startups.  Sixteen firms were selected to compete in the startup competition, with each  allotted a 15-minute segment to present during the back-to-back judging sessions held December 9. During today’s awards ceremony, gold, silver and bronze honors were presented, respectively, to  Stribe, Tigerlily and Cloudsplit.

Attendance numbers indicate increasing popularity

Issues raised during the event, both from onstage and online conversations will likely bring changes to next year’s event, but participant numbers guarantee a future  LeWeb10.

LeWeb has come a long way from the scant 250 attendees its first year in 2005. The 2009 event, held in Paris at Le CENTQUATRE, attracted sellout crowd.  LeWeb claims a count of 2,000+plus participants from 46 countries. And as of publication, USStream reported stats of nearly 200,000 views. This does not include are download stats.

LeWeb09: Real-time, real access

In line with the event theme, “Real-Time Web,” LeWeb09 broadcast live via streaming video, with continual commentary and updates posted on via @leweb Twitter lists,  @leweb/speakers, @leweb/participants1st500, @leweb/selected-startups, @leweb/official-bloggers and on Facebook.  Also available, video archives

For more information:
LeWeb09 Day One: Two Canadians blog their opinions
LeWeb Main Stage
Crush It!
Wine Library TV
Silver lining for Dublin start-up
A Day in Paris at LeWeb09 (2)
Women Women Blah Blah Blah
Real Time Is *Not* Fast Enough

About Alison Cummings

Business Writing, Copywriting, Content Marketing.
Communications + Marketing + Technical Expertise.