Startup of the day: Highlight

I’m having fun just highlighting one startup every day as I’m preparing LeWeb London.

After Klarna and Voxer, here is the red hot Highlight.

Highlight was definitely the star of South by Southwest, the app everyone was talking about. They got so much hype there that some people already talk about it as fad, I disagree.

Why? Yesterday I launched Highlight at my home and I discovered people I had no idea lived nearby (like, the houses around me!) that I would have never had any clue without Highlight. Do I need to know that 3 cool entrepreneurs I don’t know live in the houses in front of mine? No, but I like the idea to meet them one day and I like that Highlight lets me know that.

It doesn’t have much to do with Foursquare really, it tells you what friends or friends of friends or just strangers you have been nearby today. It also keeps a diary of those which is interesting in a conference, for example, to check who you have met after the event.

I personally experimented the founder, Paul Davison, being constantly interrupted during our launch in South by Southwest by Highlight users who were just coming to say hi as the app revealed he was in the restaurant. Pretty new behavior and showing new patterns. Okay it was in the land of sxsw, but I can see where it can go.

The big problem really is that it doesn’t help the already low iPhone battery time, Paul says it’s temporary and the new phones coming soon will have much better gps / battery management and you can pause the app.

Really interested to see how this one grows.

Paul Davison Highlight

Big fan of Highlight founder Paul Davison who will speak at LeWeb London.

GoPro gets unwanted advertising as Toulouse killer filmed himself killing the kids wearing one

In addition to the killing in Toulouse itself, I can’t help but think there is something wrong here. The Amazon ad, of course. The result of violence in films and video games mixed with the new trend of filming everything gets ugly. Fortunately those films were never released. For the record I love GoPro, it’s a great product, but the fact that it’s used in this case raises the bar in how humans can get ugly in a very new way.

Toulouse killer go pro  Google Search

Voxer is on my radar today and founder Tom Katis will speak at LeWeb London


I love my 11 years son Greg to be able to interrupt me at any time with Voxer, a Walkie-Talkie app that is really simple to use with excellent quality.

I hear it’s got 2.5 million daily users and is getting the SV VCs crazy these days with an unconfirmed ongoing round of $15-20m funding on a $150m valuation…!

The quality has to do with the founder, Tom Katis, having worked for 5 years on this app without ever pivoting after he had the idea coordinating soldiers in Afghanistan. Wow.

I invited Tom Katis to LeWeb London and I am so happy he accepted to join us. Going to be hot! Talking about this, I should walkie talkie Greg right now, he needs his evening hug in bed!

Who wants a great engineering team in Bucharest? Please help me spread the word

You might have heard that this week, after having tried for months to keep the entire team of my company Seesmic I had to let go about half of it (also here and here)…

Here is a great group of engineers for mobile (Android, iOS and WP7), backend and QA engineers that I have enjoyed working with for a long time and would recommend to anyone. They are all hard working, dedicated and very good. They are very experimented on the main social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and Salesforce APIs.

Feel free to contact them individually or if you are interested in the entire team or a group we could help you very easily with the office space there.

The team is used to work remotely with us in San Francisco on standard development tools and is trained on agile methods, it could work for a business anywhere.

Here are some profiles, please contact any of them directly on LinkedIn or contact alex (at) seesmic (dot) com if you are interested in the whole group and us helping you setup the office.

I added after their name the platform/specialty they were working on for us but their background is broader, check their full LinkedIn profile.

Andrei Asandei (mobile WP7, Windows)
Adina Esma Abduraman (mobile WP7, Windows)
Marius Gheorghe (mobile WP7, Windows)
Iuliu Burtoiu (mobile WP7, Windows)
Florin Matinca (Mobile, iOS)

On my radar today: Klarna



It’s one of those companies that I had never heard of until suddenly many of my trusted friends talk to me about them so I had a look.

What is it?

A competitor to Paypal and over online payment solutions, they differentiate I hear mainly by guaranteed post delivery payment for the buyers and payment from the buyer to the seller. In other words they take the risk that the transaction fails for both parties.

Where is it?

It’s European, the three founders and the CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski are in Sweden and the company is HQed in Stockholm.

How big is it?

I hear they handle more than $2.5 bn of transactions already.

Enough friends brought it to my attention saying it’s likely going to become a billion dollar company that I will keep watching and invited them to speak at LeWeb London.

Have you guys used it as a buyer or seller? What do you think?

Very interesting conversation in Davos today about the human brain and how it works. In the experiment above (which is like 10 years old) they made a synthetic computer voice and image talk and it’s able to create videos of pretty much anyone and making them say anything by generating it.

The most interesting fact is that those videos were then presented to panels of people who were asked to figure if the videos were from the real person or generated from a computer. More than 50% thought that the computer generated videos were the real ones.




[Davos 2012] Do artists use social networks for their creations?

I’m moderating tomorrow a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos about artists and social networks.

Do you have great examples of art being created with the use of social networks in a collaborative way?

I think the movie snakes in a plane had crowd sourcing as well as the Youtube Symphony Orchestra come to my mind as great examples.

On the other hands, designer Philippe Starck, fashion master Karl Lagerfeld and other creators told me they never use the Internet to get inspired and on the contrary they see it as distraction. Philippe told me he just looked at the Ocean and needed to be alone while Karl had his best ideas in his dreams or waking up in his bed.

I would be really interested in any pointer to good examples of art, literature, creations made using social networks collaboration as well as counter examples.

Do you think in the future artists will use social networks other than for marketing purposes like collecting likes on Facebook?

Would have Picasso used Facebook?

Thanks! I will report back!

Path is where the A list hangs out, don’t tell anyone.

Silencio Paris
The trendy Silencio Club by David Lynch in Paris, where Sean Parker held his party at LeWeb, pic Paris by Mouth

I was about to name them but no, Path is about privacy first, so I won’t. Want to know where most influential and successful entrepreneurs, VCs and tech writers hide online these days? How they spent their new years eve and with whom? Want to be able to interact with some of them so famous and with so many gazillion followers on Twitter and Facebook that there is no chance they will read you and reply there?

Look no further than Path, it’s the new “club branché” where almost every A-lister in Silicon Valley I know hides these days.

They share thoughts, pics and short videos, very intimate. They share what they eat and it’s ok because it keeps you in very close touch, they share quick smileys and yes, they even share when they go to sleep and when they wake up.

Thanks to many unique features such as notifying you exactly when and who has seen your pictures or your feed, Path is the ultimate way of keeping you in touch with your close friends. Close is the key, you can’t exceed 150 friends on Path and you get so many notifications that you’d better make sure you really want to hear about people you friend there because you sure will.

Path has also been designed entirely mobile day one, and it shows. The attention to details and how pure is the UI make it one of the best iPhone app I know these days (see Path founder Dave Morin comment on this at LeWeb). It’s inspiring to use just to see how a really near perfect mobile app looks like. It’s entirely native and it feels really nice and fast. Facebook has been basing its iPhone app more and more on html5 and I have to say the latest versions feel slower to me, especially when you refresh the feed or want to post an update, you can feel there is a lot of web stuff being loaded, a choice that Facebook has been very public about. Sure it makes it very easy to update the app but it doesn’t have the same feel.

Path’s recent growth isn’t about features, though, it’s more about people. Facebook and Twitter have become very mainstream, many people have hundreds if not thousands of friends and connections there. Despite Facebook’s efforts to add “who you can share to” features most people feel that what Facebook wants more and more is for you to share everything in public. It’s the default setting. Path fills that gap for some people, it created a small place where you can hang out online anytime with your close friends and it does a superb job at pinging you all the time about them. And that’s okay, since they’re your close friends, you do want to hear about them all day long.

When Path added recently the option of sharing to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare simultaneously, it became de-facto a posting client for them.

Basically the way I see my friends using Path is: “if it’s for my close friends, I just post to Path. If it’s for the masses and I don’t care that much, I will crosspost it from Path to Facebook and Twitter”. Basically if it’s important keep it in Path, if it’s more mainstream that who knows can read it and it’s a whatever update, share it to the social networks for the masses.

Sure, Path is still in its infancy and it’s very small compared to Twitter and Facebook. Yes, like every hip and fashionable restaurant or night club it might lose its appeal at any moment the A-list decides, that’s how fashion works. And of course it isn’t a real threat to Facebook or Twitter yet, it’s very small. Yeah, you can look at it as a well done app for a few people that has very cool features.

Since I was with Dave Morin on stage at LeWeb I started using it daily and I was very surprised on how addictive it gets (bummer I forgot to say when I went to bed and woke up on Path last night, my friends will miss that information badly) because my friends are using it. It has become the app I use the most daily on my iPhone and the very first feed I read. Then I also read and interact on Facebook, Twitter and the growing Google+, of course, but it doesn’t have the same feel.

Time will tell, but I think Dave and his team are onto something really big by aiming at keeping it small.

I’m a little more American today.

Today it’s my first day as official US immigrant, I entered customs through the new immigrant line as a future Green Card holder. I have been living in the US for 4.5 years under an investor visa and the main reason why we asked for a Green Card was getting the kids into College and allowing my 16 years old to keep his ranking as one of the top junior fencers in the US (he needs a Green Card # to keep fencing the nationals).

It’s not been easy, it’s been about 1.5 years that we have been waiting for that interview, prepared a full application and asking many friends their written recommendations to help my case (thanks, it helped). Oh and I think we paid $15k in immigration lawyering fees, too. Anyway, today we finally entered as immigrants and within two months we should receive the infamous Green Card.

It doesn’t change that much frankly, except that in 5 years we can ask for a full US passport if we want to, like many friends of ours elected to, and become full americans. The good news is there is a number of Countries where dual citizenship is allowed so I would be able to keep my French and my American passports simultaneously. I wonder if I will ask a US passport, I am not sure. After 10 years in the US maybe I will feel like becoming a full American citizen, I guess voting is the main difference. Tax wise it doesn’t change that much as I have already been a US tax payer for nearly 5 years. Oh, yes, there is this worldwide taxation regardless of where you live worldwide and for life, but frankly if we have been in the US for 10 years+, I doubt we will come back anytime soon and who cares about tax as long as you live well, contributing is okay, I’m also getting a lot from living here. In terms of tax, California is pretty similar to France.

Living in Silicon Valley has been extraordinary for my wife Geraldine and myself, but even more we feel for our Children. Not that we were not happy in Paris, but I have to admit that I have never seen that much concentration of talent, smart people and most importantly ambitious people anywhere. It’s the heart of technology worldwide and it’s not going to change anytime soon. We love it. We have so many friends here now.

As I have been a few weeks in Paris, a few details and “cliches” stroke my mind and reminded me how different the US is to France, much more different than I expected when I moved 5 years ago:
-Crossing the street.
In Paris you should be scared to cross the street as cars accelerate if they see you’re going to cross. In San Francisco cars watch you from the sideways and stop even before you started crossing the street
-Asking for the bill.
In Paris you wait forever for the bill and it’s impolite to bring it to you if you haven’t asked for it. In San Francisco they bring you the bill even before you finish your desert, it’s considered good service so you don’t have to wait. After 5 years I’m always surprised when they do this to me.
-People generally feel more relaxed and happy in San Francisco compared to constant stress in Paris. Each time I go back to Paris I feel everybody is complaining around me and feel unhappy about anything. It’s very parisian to just complain about anything. 
-In San Francisco good service in a restaurant is when the waiter is very kind and helpful. In Paris if you get good service (read: they’re really nice with you) it’s a tourist place. If it’s a parisian place waiters are arrogant, generally make you wait and feel like you should be thankful to even be in that restaurant, that’s how it (generally) is… Get a table at the Costes and tell me how you feel when you arrive.

Of course I’m focusing on the obvious here, and I think France and the French have very unique qualities that I miss. I like coming back to Paris, but I have to admit that I like coming back more and more as a “foreigner” or at least that’s how it feels to me. I have just spent for the first time in my life a full week in Paris as a tourist with my family, showing the Louvre and Versailles to my kids, we all loved it. We enjoyed incredible food and great places we don’t have in the US and of course stayed many times with friends we don’t get to see that much anymore.

I have lived in Paris for 15 years and now 5 years in San Francisco, both cities and cultures are for sure very different. For me it comes down to living in the center of the World of my passion: technology. Paris is one of the centers of Fashion and food, for example, and has great startups, but it can’t compete with San Fran if you look at the startup scene, it probably doesn’t have to.

I enjoy very much organizing LeWeb in France every year and that’s here to stay, it’s been 8 years already, but I probably feel more home in San Francisco now than in Paris. I love the energy, the ambition, the “no-one complains ever” culture. Everything is about entrepreneurship and technology. It’s also very often about improving the World we live in, look at Apple, Facebook or Google as well as so many startups I love such as Flipboard, Uber, Path, Evernote… to name a few. They are changing the World. It feels good to live in their neighborhood.

Who knows, it might change, but for now my plan is to settle here more and more while keeping organizing LeWeb in Paris every year in december, which keeps me somehow in the middle of the Atlantic and contributing remotely to the european startup scene, at least once a year. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Paris, the Parisians and the French, I’m just focusing on technology!

Hey I’ve got a new blog!

After many years on Typepad and after having launched Six Apart in Europe in 2004 it feels pretty weird to me to have my blog powered by WordPress but I think it better fits my needs now. Huge respect for my friends who were behind Six Apart but life goes on.

It’s hosted by the wonderful WP-Engine (what an amazing team I highly recommend) who helped me import my entire 8 years old Typepad blog and was setup by my friends Ben Metcalfe and Andrei Pop. The theme is the same as Mike Arrington, I just liked very much how clean it is, it’s Chunk by Automattic.

I’m not exactly sure how my blog fits in my online social life anymore with all those networks and I won’t promise I will update it daily anymore (as I can’t keep that promise!) but I like having a blog and I like blogging longer posts here. We shall see!

In any case, thanks for checking it out.