Category Archives: Europe

Meetic acquires the European Business of and Makes History

It is a first ever in the european internet industry. It is not an american internet major player acquiring a european business but the other way round, as Meetic and just announced.

In Europe what we often say is that the industry is full of copycats and entrepreneurs who cannot reach a world class position for their startups. Meetic has just made history by acquiring the european business of the American dating site while many thought it would be the opposite, that Match would be the clear worldwide leader and “as always” the american company would either acquire or kill its small european competitor. The opposite just happened, proving that you can be in Europe and create a world class Internet business like Marc Simoncini did (disclosure I am a board member of meetic) while being in Europe.

Americans reporters will have to change the way they see the european startup scene I think. Marc Simoncini gave a great speech at my conference LeWeb in 2008 but remained unnoticed by the american bloggers and journalists who were also present. In fact most of them have never heard of Meetic and Marc and they were not interested, well maybe now that a major american player gets acquired by a european they will pay attention, I think they should. Europe is not only made of two hour lunches. Let’s not blame my american friends too much, they came to Paris and other european events, they cover the european startups more and more, it is all good, I am confident one day they will consider Meetic is as important as

Is this a sign that the times are changing and that suddenly european startups become more competitive? Europe has a lot to do to be able to compete with Silicon Valley, let’s quote again the lack of business angels, the 20+ languages an entrepreneur has to cope with to become a leader in Europe, the tax burden often higher than in the US and the most important being probably the lack of risk culture. Yet, Marc Simoncini made it and should become more of an hero in Europe, Marc should inspire new generations of entrepreneurs in Europe to wake up in the morning not to create copycats of anything but create new startups with an ambition that is not only their countries, not Europe, but being world class.
I have good hopes and I am really happy that Meetic sets a new tone in Europe. European internet entrepreneurs can have a model to follow and surrounded by several world class VCs (and I am lucky to be working with two of them, Atomico and Wellington but they are not the only ones) they can clearly create world leaders from Europe. I still think it is easier for an Internet business to thrive if it’s based in Silicon Valley, but this is a sign that the european scene is changing. Fantastic news.
update: happy to see how is listening and reactive on Twitter, congratulations to for partnering with the best european success of all times!

Citizenbay opens focusing on local information


My friend Oleg Tscheltzoff has just opened Citizenbay, available at launch in english and french. It is focusing on local information (by city) and has an original model has Oleg pays the authors between $1 and $5 per post that makes it to the home page (top 10 articles voted by the readers). Oleg explains what makes Citizenbay different in the below video podcast. The video file is here. disclosure: I just invested in Citizenbay.

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Andries Molenaar, Enterprise Ireland

I like the Irish government approach with startups. Instead of investing hundreds of millions of euros in search engines nobody uses, they invest the same amount in startups, along with VC funds. One could argue that public money is not here for that but Europe does not have enough entrepreneurs and when they start their business it is too difficult for them to find seed money. Andries Molenaar explains us how Ireland helps. Congrats.

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Google Zeitgest Europe: my rant on citizen journalism

Google had invited me to speak at Google Zeitgest Europe and just sent me the video of my rant, thanks again, Sandrine and all the Google team. Note: I started by a mistake saying most of our 15 million blogs are paying, I meant “many of them”, apologies I was under light stress in front of such an audience of a few hundred european personalities and speaking just before Peter Gabriel 😉


Google Zeitgest Europe: a few thoughts.


Eric Schmidt and Larry Page, Google CEO & co-founder

I just had two wonderful days at Google Zeitgest Europe. As I said, this was a private event and no blogging was allowed unfortunately except David Cameron and Eric Schmidt & Lary Page sessions. The event gathered about 300 people, European partners of Google, Advertisers, CEOs of large corporations, press and Internet personalities. I was invited to speak about citizen journalism and blogging and it was a great pleasure in front of such an audience. I’ll remain quiet about what was discussed in details but it was basically focusing on the future of the Web, we talked about the information democratization, the recent evolution of commerce (lots about the long tail of course), entertainment 2.0, globalization, citizen journalism and generally how the world is changing. As always, I liked the ideas Larry shared with us, here are a few quotes.

About product launches in the new web environment: “Look at the movie industry, it’s really difficult regardless of the budget to forecast what movie will be a success. It’s the same on the web, the best way to know if a product will work or not is to actually launch it and see what happens”. “Google really succeeded by giving people what they wanted, including the ads, targeted and non intrusive”.

About innovation: “Focus on what people don’t do yet or don’t do well rather than on what everybody else is doing” said Larry about how they innovated on products where we thought everything was done (such as gmail/gtalk).

These two above quotes seem very obvious and straightforward however if you really think about how most non-web products are launched, they go usually the opposite way. They are conceived in secret without involving much customer feedback and fearing that the competition may steal the ideas when on the web today most products and services which succeed are almost built with the customers, integrating their feedback and also criticism since the very beginning. Brands that use blogs and accept open comments know exactly what I am talking about.

Anyway, I had lots of fun and met tons of incredible people (and friends such as Martin who spoke too), thanks Google friends for having invited me and the honor to speak just before Peter Gabriel 😉

update, thanks, Pond, for your comments about my speech

Why Quaero will fail on the BBC

Peter Day interviewed (and podcasted) me in his BBC show “In Business”, “Euro Everything” on why I thought that Quaero would fail. Thanks again Peter.

European politicians are worried about how the continent is falling behind the United States in innovation.

Some of them are placing their faith in big industrial and internet projects to boost the continent’s ability to compete. But can taxpayer’s money help innovation, or does it actually hinder it?

And does Europe really need a European rival to the current American-run Global Positioning System and its own version of Google? “

Quaero: 10 reasons why the French search engine will fail.

Here are 10 reasons why Quaero, the French search engine, will fail, and “by a frenchman”.

1- Can’t spell it.

How can you trust a project that has not been even able to get its domain name and that nobody can spell right

2- Centralized.

There are no centralized projects on the web that succeed. The web is a web and decentralized by essence. Look at Firefox and the way it takes market share against the centralized Internet Explorer, look at Wikipedia

3- Secret versus beta.

There are no successful secret projects anymore. With 60 million bloggers out there and the dramatic shift from an era of vertical communication into a many-to-many conversation, you have to build your products with the consumers using beta versions, going live and improving the product as you go, not in secret.

4- No buzz, no adoption.

Darwinism is the way the web goes and darwinism is the way startups go. At the very beginning you can feel immediately if an idea or an innovative project is catching up. Look at Skype, 100 million users without advertising but a huge conversational buzz since launch. Nobody knows what Quaero does and what it is exactly, when it will be released. Worse, if you search, you find Exalead, a french search engine supposed to be “better than Google” but that few people use.

5- A galaxy of actors who compete to get the subventions and don’t get much noticed for their latest web innovations

About 25 organisations are involved in Quaero, mostly french. Even though many have excellent reputation, none of them are really known for their innovation around the web today, I mean around the latest standards RSS, conversations, tags, etc. Of course there is Lycos Europe but is Lycos still on the cutting edge of Internet initiatives ?

6- Not really international.

Quaero is introduced by Jacques Chirac as a Franco-German initiative when Deutsche Telecom has already announced it will not take an active role anymore but just be an observer. It looks much more like a French patriotic initiative.

7- A neverending story.

Quaero has been announced as a 5 years project when Google is only barely 8 years old, where will Google be in 5 years when Quaero is finally launched ? In a French podcast, François Bourdoncle, President of Exalead, a company that is said to lead the “multiple heads missile” as he calls the “programme Quaero” admits he does not even know when it should be launched. It was supposed to be introduced in January 2006 and we are still waiting.

8- Not enough euros.

Microsoft barely exists in Search marketshare against Google with his MSN Search. Still, it will invest 1.1 billion $ in 2005 only on search against 260 M€ on 5 years for the French engine. Google generated more than $2 billion in revenues last quarter… We’re launching a competitor which will be five years late with fifty times less money…

9- Subventions euros are not worth venture capital euros.

Maybe Jacques Chirac was not told that Yahoo! and Google were created by Stanford students in their rooms. Sure Jacques Chirac was not told either that they were financed by venture capitalists. People who know the industry, know how fast it goes and help the startups as they grow on a daily basis. They also fight against each other to invest in the next round or decide to sell or let the company die if it fails. Subventions are allocated in a totally different way. Too much politics involved in who will get the “euro shower” and not enough results driven.

10- Google is a thousand startups

These are only a few of the ongoing Google projects. The entire company operates as a thousand startups as employees who have ideas are encouraged to launch them in-house. That is why it is so innovative. How many european startups could the Government help launch if these 250 M€ were invested in them ?

Open source is probably the only possible threat to Google. Wikipedia has more audience than Britannica, Mozilla with Firefox and its hundreds of volunteers is the only organization that is really threatening Microsofts’s dominant position with Internet Explorer. These two last examples are thousands of individuals who decided one day that knowledge should be free and non commercial on the one hand, and that browsing should not be left to a monopolistic Microsoft that does not invest in it anymore. The same may well appear against Google and have chances to succeed. To my knowledge however, there are no such initiatives, probably because not enough people think Google “can be evil” with its dominant role. Why not open source Quaero and engage all individuals who would like to challenge Google’s position ? If the aim is to have an alternative and successful search engine, that it probably the way to go. It’s certainly not by trying to create centralized “multi-heads missiles” in a decentralized World where building communities matter more than the Country they originated from.

Austria’s way of celebrating their new European Presidency

…original ! Article (in French) from Luc on Agoravox.

 41 79393458 66C78Fa032 “on January 1st 2006, Austria takes the EU Presidency for 6 months, succeeding to Tony Blair. To celebrate it, the Austrian Government has given 75 artists from the 25 EU member Countries the mission to create 150 pieces of art that “reflect social, historic and political differences in Europe”. This collective creation, called “euroPART” has been displayed on 400 advertising billboards in the Austrian Capital. This project, called “25PEACES” has had a total budget of a million euros” Below, another picture of a billboard in the street.

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Tell Europe’s ministers and top e-governement officials what we want

William Heath has a very interesting initiative, Ideal Government Europe:

The aim is to do a blog-based collective brainstorm across Europe on the theme “What do we want from e-government”. I’ll do this with an “ideal government/Europe” blog, and I want to create more or less a manifesto of what online Europeans want from the Euros60bn/yr that government spends on IT.

When it’s done I have the chance to present it live to a big audience of Europe’s e-government Ministers and officials at the EU Presidency e-gov conference (Manchester 24 November). It’s a good opportunity for us all (once in a lifetime for me probably).”

If you’re interested to contribute to this initiative, visit William’s blog or email him at William.Heath (at) William may contact you as well if you contributed (thanks!) to the European Blogosphere wiki.