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]

Bruges, Barcelona, Paris: On the road again

As you might know, I’m Canadian. You knew that, right?

So while I’ve been living in the UK for nearing onto 8 years (minus a few months pottering back and forth to finish University in Canada), it still blows my little mind that I can get from London to Paris in just over 2 hours, or fly to Barcelona in even less.

While my travel schedule doesn’t rival the travel calendars of most of my esteemed industry colleagues, it makes me smile that in the course of a month, my Canadian passport will be stamped with Belgian, French and Spanish stamps.

In Bruges (with a detour via Brussels)

Last weekend was the Bruges trip; a hectic two-day trip to Brussels, where we visited the Cantillon brewery home to Lambic, Gueuze, Faro and Kriek beers. I was lucky enough to try an elder blossom lambic, which was rather unusual and flowery but worth a try. We then moved on to Bruges for the evening, wandering the streets and trying more Belgian beers from Edric’s 100 Belgian Beers to Try Before You Die list. The next morning, we did the classic boat tour, ate more mussels and fries, then slowly (very slowly, thanks to National Express useless train services) made our way home.

Next, Barcelona

In just under two weeks, I’ll be popping over to sunny (I hope) Barcelona for a spot of brainstorming with a brilliant client’s team. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a few hours to pop by Las Ramblas and soak in some Spanish vibes (and Spanish wine).

Last stop, Paris

logoMy last stop before Christmas will be Paris, for the LeWeb ’09 conference, where they’ve kindly invited me as official blogger. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting new faces and seeing new startups and entrepreneurs get passionate about the web.

For those who aren’t familiar with Le Web, it’s a yearly conference with over 1800 attendees with themes relating to the web, technology, but with a broad appeal that will tickle the curiosity of non-geeks as well. Some of the speakers this year include Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, productivity geek Tim Ferriss, TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington (who will undoubtedly get into mudslinging as he does every year), an unusually sober Paul Carr and Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan. A rather varied bunch then!

If you’re also attending, drop me a line or leave a comment, as I’d love to meet some new people!

[As a complete aside, titling this post “On the road again” caused me to start singing Richard Séguin’s “L’Ange Vagabond”, which contains the lyrics “On the road again”. I ended up downloading the album from iTunes – gobsmacked iTunes UK has a French-Canadian album from 1993 in its catalogue! Time for a trip down memory lane…]

Geek update of the week

Sorry if posting’s been a bit on the lean side recently, I’ve been, shall we say, rather busy. So here’s the past two weeks in summary…

  • We got kittens, we got kittens, we got kittens! I’ve been spending nearly every evening entertaining them myself while teasing them with a silly stick with a green feather at the end.
  • I went to Paris for a very interesting Mobile Monday event, where Bob presented Taptu to the French and Zazie serenaded everyone.
  • I bought an iPhone. Yup. I was at the Cambridge O2 store on launch day. There was a big queue of like… 20 of us. Not a huge hit with the plebs, but I’m absolutely in love with it.
  • I went to the Future of Mobile conference, saw the usual suspects and met some new people while seeing Powerpoint slides being blown up bigger than ever before.
  • We’ve put our house on the market and have put an offer in on a bigger house just down the road. Comes with it, some serious tidying of the house in order to make it vaguely presentable to potential buyers!
  • Did I mention I got some kittens?

Right well… Good night my lovelies!