There has been lively discussions of whether the many web conferences are really the most effective use of time for a startup. Similarly many people see the value in these conferences very differently, for example people from the United States tend to spend most if not all their time networking in the lobbies and hallways, at least more so than the Europeans are used to. We, the Europeans, on the other hand, tend to pay equal attention to the speakers at the stage.

At ArcticStartup we believe that meeting friends and strangers, as many as possible, is the best way to spend your time in these conferences. But that’s just us. Thus, we wanted to know what other startups think and decided to ask a group of Finnish startups, who travelled to the LeWeb with us, what they think. Here are some perspectives:

Helene, CEO, Zipipop:

LeWeb was great for us since we got a chance to present in the startup competition. Although we didn’t win we learned a lot. There were big problems in the internet connection and none of the startups in the competition had an internet connection except Zipipop (thanks to Teemu Arina’s USB 3G).

LeWeb in general was really good, great people, great presentations and great atmosphere. The only three minus points I have to give about the cold temperature in the hall, bad internet connection and not having enough food.

Jussi Laakkonen, CEO, Everyplay:

Good

  • A lot of big name people present. Great to see Americans in Europe.
  • Also big name speakers present, including Joichi Ito, Susan Wu, Chris Anderson, etc.
  • Joining the forces (The Sauna Truck effort) was a great to way to travel cost efficiently and make headlines.
  • A few good meeting at the venue made the trip worth while.

Bad

  • The organizers had put too little effort in promoting the networking: It was impossible to talk to people at the parties in the evening. The music was too loud, there was not enough room, people did not have badges which made it impossible know who’s who. On the other hand, during the day there could also have been been something in the program that would’ve supported this.
  • The organizing bit did not go as smoothly as it could have
  • The presentations and panel’s were pretty light content wise or straight up entertainment, which did not give much to the day-in-day-out of running a startup. That said, they were fun to watch and inspirational.

For me the best bit of the conferences was the networking. That’s why I was a bit bummed out since the surrounding elements did not fully support that.

Kristoffer from Scred:

There has been some amount of criticism about Le Web and the facilities there. However, I would like to remind people of the three reasons you should be at a conference like this:

1) To create a buzz around your company

2) To meet great potential partners and contacts

3) To be inspired by what others are doing

I’ll discount point 3 for now, as you should be pretty inspired by what you’re doing anyway so, while it always adds a boost to see others in the same game, it’s not necessarily worth paying 1.5k euros just for that. I also did not mention ‘listening to great presentations’. To be honest, after you’ve seen a few dozen presentations with big audiences, there is rarely anything new and important to be gained from them, especially if they are big companies. They’re not allowed to talk about anything anyway, at least to a wide audience. So that leaves the buzz and meeting people.

If you, as a startup, find that all you are doing at conferences is sitting and tweeting, or jaikuing, about stuff then you most certainly have wasted both your time, and your precious money. If that’s the case, please do not go to any further conferences. Instead you should be actively and assertively meeting people who might benefit you, and who might benefit from you. If you have a cool product just out the door, make sure as many people as possible know about it. Don’t ramble on and on (I hate people who do that at conferences — I usually know inside a minute if it’s something for me). Just let people know it’s cool and to check it out. Guerilla marketing strategies can be fantastic. Us Finns could do a bit more of that. Then get those essential partners, investors and media contacts: and follow up with them! Don’t just take a [business] card and throw it away. That’s plain stupidity.

So was it worth it for Scred? We weren’t demoing our new version yet, but we did meet some fantastic people. Was it worth paying the money to do that? Only time will really tell. The value of those meetings cannot be measured in a couple of days. Give us a year or two and we’ll let you know 🙂

Oh and the sauna was brilliant!

Jani of Xihalife:

Networking wise the trip was a great success, but I believe I think I will skip next years LeWeb. Looking forward to TheNextWeb.

Kai of Floobs:

For me LeWeb trip was not perfect, since I had fever throughout the whole trip. The people at LeWeb was yet again bar none. TheNextWeb has great people, but LeWeb is the best in Europe people wise. Everybody’s there. The conferences are not worth the trip if you go for the content, but the value lies in the people you meet. Everybody a startup need to meet are there ie. the VCs, the partners, the developers, the bloggers and other media.

A startup should definitely take part, come to those conferences and tell everybody what they are working on, benchmark to their starup to other startups and watch the pitching competition to learn where other startups fail on stage. Startups should also aim to develop personal relationships to the bloggers that matter and aim to partner internationally.

In the US every single individual is important and people act accordingly since you never know who will be pivotal to your startup. This is something that we’ve been trying to keep in mind and really work on this at Floobs.

Most of the startups think, just as we at ArcticStartup, that the conferences are important but not necessarily for the program on stage, but for the people that visit there. When you decide to attend have a strategy on what you want to get out of the conference, do your research before hand and make a list of people you want to meet based on who you know are coming.

That said, I only asked the startups that were on the trip with us which means that they are likely to be favorable towards going to conferences by definition. What do you think? Is there enough bang for your buck to pay to travel to the many web conferences around Europe and US?

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