Milo Yiannopoulos reviews LeWeb London, taking in the sights and sounds, highs and lows and heroes and villains of Loic Le Meur’s first expedition into London. His verdict? A terrific success.
“Who do I have to blow to get a Diet Coke around here?” bellowed a well-known public relations impresario yesterday in the speaker room at LeWeb London, the British offshoot of Loic Le Meur’s flagship Paris-based technology conference.
Word reached the internet of the unfortunate shortage. The intrepid founders of Seedcamp portfolio start-up Milk.ly, a personal assistant and errand service akin to Taskrabbit launching in Europe this week, sprang unbidden into action.
A crate of Diet Coke was swiftly delivered to the thirsty A-listers, to a soundtrack of whoops and hollers, and Milk.ly was instantly crowned the people’s favourite start-up of LeWeb by the parched bloggers in the cheap seats.
TechCrunch blogger Mike Butcher, overwhelmed perhaps by the arrival of smouldering editor Eric Eldon and his foxy sidekick Alexia from the Valley, asked if Milk.ly delivered drugs. They shrugged politely.
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Tuesday, the opening day of LeWeb London, could be summarised by the phrase “Where’s Wally?” with the wally in question being racist wantrepreneur Sam Sethi, conspicuously and inexplicably absent from the proceedings.
I say inexplicably because today was Sethi’s big day: the day he finally had physical access to TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington. Arrington has avoided the UK since 2009 thanks to a preposterous default judgment issued against him at Sethi’s behest.
This was Sethi’s hour – his big chance – the moment he would at last be able to stride triumphantly up the aisle of Westminster’s Central Hall, leap onto the stage and slap the judgment down in front of Arrington, crowing that even though he may not have been able to forge a career of his own without epic, embarrassing and even life-threatening fuck-ups, he could at least enjoy his moment of justice.
Alas, it was not to be. Spineless Sam was a no-show, despite telling friends last week he intended to cause a scene at the conference and possibly involve the police.
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And yet, for drama-seekers, there was no need for dismay. Corridors thronged with familiar villains. Seasoned tech scene watchers pored over the sights and smells of the Tech City Investment Organisation’s singular achievement: LeWeb had come to town!
Tech City chief executive and reluctant silver fox Eric van der Kleij (we learned yesterday it’s actually pronounced “kleedge”) paced the corridors, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting start-ups and investors.
They were to be frogmarched, on pain of being blacklisted from Digital Sizzle, to a darkened corner of the Methodist hall to be speed-dated and added to UKTI’s bulging brag book.
Disgraced fabulist Michael Jackson was seen feasting on the raw flesh of innocent children and guzzling the blood of virgin booth babes in an upper floor antechamber, howling like a banshee in anguish at being ejected from Llustre’s funding round after fibbing about his bank balance.
(The female-heavy e-commerce company was acquired this week by Fab.com, just 12 weeks after launch. Jackson won’t get a penny – though angels such as Tom Hulme and the Hoxton Ventures boys are said to be very happy with their returns.)
There were even rumours that sweaty social media guru Maz Nadjm was in attendance, though given that he’s been dismissed from six posts in two years, our reporters did wonder how he’d scraped together enough money for the ticket.
Nadjm was spotted late on Wednesday in a lower level bathroom, sponging his folds with a soiled flannel.
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There’s really no point watching many of the sessions at a conference like this. It’s not why you go. The Kernel and TechCrunch knew this and ensconced themselves in the speaker room, their respective editorial teams pouting and posturing furiously at each other.
Rumours of a dance-off were exaggerated.
The private rooms are where the action happens at conferences, which is why, should you be moved to shell out four figures for a networking opportunity, you should do everything possible to wangle your way into one, then stay there. (It isn’t difficult.)
Investor Jeff Clavier, who had borrowed one of Pete Cashmore’s more ridiculous barnets for the day, bounced around the speaker room on Tuesday with his usual Gallic charm. Robert Scoble, uber-blogger and one of the most infuriatingly naturally nice people we’ve ever met, showed off his new beard.
Mike Arrington, for his part, is enduring a cruel vicissitude, apparently bewildered that he is no longer accosted every few minutes by start-ups desperate for the golden endorsement.
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Loic Le Meur always reels in one or two genuine celebrities. At LeWeb London, we were treated to half an hour of incoherence from mockney geezer Jamie Oliver, who excused himself from a heady schedule of finger-wagging at city council offices to masturbate directly into Kevin Systrom’s mouth.
Oliver, apparently, is a fan of Instagram.
“The discussion devolved into a scroll through Jamie’s Instagram photos,” relates Kernel contributing editor Mic Wright. “I’ve not been that excited since my uncle showed me 500 slides of the most interesting concrete structures in Milton Keynes.”
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There was a rumour floating around earlier this year – in fact, we’ve had it confirmed by a number of people, that one of Loic’s worries about staging LeWeb in London was the quality of the catering.
So UKTI put on a tasting for Le Meur to reassure him about the quality of the food in London. Fair enough: Loic is a perfectionist, which shows in every component of LeWeb’s sky-high production values.
According to our man Mic Wright, “The toughest reviews from TechCrunch during Le Web weren’t for any start-up appearing at the event or an entrepreneur that annoyed chisel-faced action dude editor Eric Eldon. It was the food.
“Alexia took time during a panel introduction to deliver a little slap to the gastronomic rep of her hosts: ‘Hope that lunch was more French than English…’ Eric was similarly snarky. He tweeted: ‘The first thing I’ll do back in the US tomorrow: eat a green salad.’
“If I had my way, they would both now be denied future entry to the UK unless they consumed a steak and kidney pie at passport control.”
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The real heroes of LeWeb are always unsung: Loic’s wife Geraldine, their fearless right-hand woman Karyn, stage manager Cerberus (we understand Sybill is a misprint) and Chloe, possibly the most brilliantly indiscreet make-up girl we’ve ever encountered.
Chloe couldn’t give us the name of the speaker who’d plonked himself down before her mirror and sternly warned against any interference with “the hair”, but, from her description, our money’s on Clavier.
The LeWeb operation is run with poise and elegance. You won’t find a more attractively polished tech conference experience outside invitation-only gatherings for chief executives.
Notwithstanding that, neither the mildly absurd “faster than real time” theme, the structure of the panels and talks, the food, the venue or any other logistical consideration really matters.
What matters is who shows up. And, by that metric, as always, the Le Meurs pulled off a spectacular triumph, because not only was a galaxy of stars in town from the Valley, but so, thank the heavens, were the boys from Milk.ly.
Bottoms up. And let’s hope to God Loic stages it again next year.