The hardest thing about an idea is to get it started

Ryan Sarver from Twitter presenting during LeWeb 09

Last week, I was kindly invited to attend LeWeb 09 as official blogger. LeWeb is a yearly, two-day conference in Paris, which takes a deep look at the web now and in the future. It’s a frenzied opportunity to meet new people, see old faces and hear great talks.

While watching the world go by at Ebbsfleet Eurostar station, (the best kept secret of European travel) before heading to Paris, it hit me that we nearly halfway through December. I started thinking back on 2009, the successes and failures I’ve experienced or witnessed others experience. It’s been an interesting year, with a few victories, but a few scraped knees also.

Then yesterday morning, in one of the first talks of LeWeb, Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder said:

“The hardest thing about an idea is to get it started”

I’ll tell you a secret: I used to really hate being rubbish at something, to the point where, when I was a teenager, I wouldn’t even rehearse for my vocal music classes in front of people for fear they’d hear me do something wrong. Yet I’d happily sing in concert in front of a huge crowd at the end of the year! And I didn’t speak English til I was in my teens, not because I couldn’t, but because I was embarrassed by my accent.

It doesn’t take much to realise that nearly everyone feels that way to a varying degree; the fear of failure can paralyse us and stop us from doing things we REALLY want to do.

LeWeb is filled with people who’ve taken that jump, who’ve conquered their fears, their peers’ fears, or at least sidelined them long enough to give their ideas a go. Whether it’s launching a startup instead of staying in a cushy-but-boring megacorp job, launching a new wacky iPhone idea or creating and manufacturing a small-run Psion-revival pocket computer.

These people and startups risk money, energy and years of their life for something they’re passionate about or think might change the world (or at least make a dent of difference). They use events and conferences as an opportunity to gain visibility, get feedback on what they’ve created and meet existing and potential users. Needless to say, they also leave with a few bruises from those who don’t “get” their idea and either say it bluntly or tweet it publicly.

Of course, only one out of five* will break even, and only a handful will become rockstars. But some of those who failed will get back up, try something else and one day, succeed.

So as we hurtle towards 2010, why not let ourselves get inspired by brave startups and self-employed ppl who’ve flown the nest of safety and try doing something awesome?

Hopefully, some attendees (or some of the thousands of online viewers of the LeWeb video stream) will be inspired to do something for the greater good in the process. Whether it’s organising a BarCamp event, running a charity-focused event in support of 1GOAL (as presented by Queen Rania) or providing charitable organisations with free coaching, share your wisdom with others.

As Gary Vaynerchuk said, in his usual blunt way, “Everybody’s got a shot, I don’t care if you are in Sillicon Valley or in France” (See his talk here) As Gary has done, from being co-owner of a New Jersey wine shop to becoming a web celeb, he’s shown us that with enough passion and drive, we can achieve just about anything.

Talking about driving… Heading down to Ebbsfleet station, I couldn’t help but be amused that it was a fairly leisurely drive, albeit one involving some of the busiest motorways in the country. Two years ago, the thought of having to drive down the M25 gave me cold sweats. I could have gone on to avoid driving like I had done until I was 25, but I reluctantly went through the scary challenge of driving lessons (it was scary in my eyes, alright!?) A few years on, I couldn’t be happier that I’m on the other side of it all. In hindsight, the hardest thing was to get started.

We all need to occasionally tackle a few fears or go above what we believe we can achieve right here and right now. It takes a while, trudging through how frustratingly bad we are at something at first, but then… oh THEN we feel like we’ve really achieved something great!

What will YOU do with 2010?

To read more from other LeWeb official bloggers, visit the aggregated posts page – with most of them doing a far better job summarising the event than I have done!

[* Stat entirely pulled out of thin air to be representative, don’t quote me on that one and see the experts for real stats]
[Photo credit: LeWeb 09 by Blogowski on Flickr, Creative Commons license]

SocialMediaCamp London: A Look Back At The Many Themes

Do you ever look back at past achievements and feel yourself swell with pride because, with hindsight, you now realise how well you and others did?

This morning, poking around Flickr, I came across Tom’s photo of the schedule board at SocialMediaCamp London, which was back in October. We gathered 100 attendees, many of which chose to present on a topic of their choice, kicking off interesting conversations and collaborations amongst participants. Since I didn’t get to attend every presentation, some titles still puzzle me, but here is the full list of panel/presentation/discussion topics:

socialmediacamplondon_schedule

  • How to write awesome headlines – Tom Whitwell, The Times
  • Social Media as Community Activism: From International Networks to a local perspective – Salford Social Media Centre
  • Love is in the air – Jonny & Jayme, Glue
  • How/Why Moderate Masses (180,000 users) – The Sun Online
  • Social Media: How Not To Get Fucked – Girl With a One Track Mind
  • How to Replace CNN with Something Nicer: IPTV
  • How Hedgehogs can Inspire Social Media – Carl @Fellowcreative
  • Entreprise Microblogging is More Than Twitter: A First Look at Brand New Microblogging System – Communote.com
  • Lifestreaming your Life Online – Ande Gregson & Paul Kane, Sky
  • Buzz Management For Startups: How to Build Workflow so Everyone Knows What’s Going On – Jure C
  • Relationship Counselling for PRs and Bloggers – Paul Borge
  • Legal Aspects of Social Media – Victoria McEvedy
  • Digital Yoga & The New Religion of the Web – Rohan
  • One (wo)man Social Media Empire-Life! – Lloyd Davis
  • Twitter for the Environment – Carmen
  • Man Boobs, Incest, Sarah Palin and The Times: How We Do SEO @ Times Online – Mariana Bettio
  • The Social Graph: Who Owns It? What Is It?
  • DIY PR: How to Get PR For Your Startup (Please Fire your PR Firm/Agency)
  • Native To a Web of Dudes – David Thompson
  • How to Present to Big Scary Companies (And Look Like You Know What You’re Doing) – Terence Eden, Vodafone
  • Alternate Reality Games
  • Social Media For Good: Respite For Carers, A Project in Development (Discussion)
  • We’re All Chemicals: Social Objects on the Social Web, Socialising – Dan Donald
  • 6 Degrees of Separation Now – Benjamin Ellis
  • Programmer-Journalists or Journalist-Programmers (Group Discussion) – Mark Ng
  • How to Use LinkedIn To Get a Better Job
  • TV III Branding: The Management Of Television Brands in The Digital Age – Will Prestes
  • Staying Pseudonymous On & Offline
  • Scrumping 2.0: A Model for Wider Community Involvement?
  • Digital Footprint
  • If you Work in Marketing or Advertising, Kill Yourself Now – Chris Applegate
  • Data Portability – Ben Godfrey
  • The Web of Babel: Managing Languages on the Web – Chrys
  • Akoha: The Social Reality Game – Emma Persky
  • Online Reputation Management: It’s Not All Bad
  • Ideas Into Action: Developing a Toolkit for Collaborative & Community Projects – Alison
  • Print & Online Social Media: Can You Make It Work? – The London Paper
  • Measuring Engagement of Social Media Websites in the Web 2.0 World
  • Managing Online Identity & Personal Brand – Vero Pepperrell
  • 7 Secrets to Facebook Fundraising
  • Blogging Breakdown & How to Avoid It – Annie Mole
  • Social Media Bingo Session

A few presentation notes made their way on the SMCLondon blog and quite a few have been posted to Slideshare under the tag “smclondon08” so, if like me you want to reminisce, or didn’t have the chance to attend, have a look!

I can’t help but wonder what trend similarities and changes we’ll see at SocialMediaCamp London v.2.0… Want to get involved in the second SMCLondon? Drop me a line as the planning is only just beginning and we always welcome an extra pair of hands!