Fast Company

Le Web Highlights Shifts In Global Startup Culture

As Om Malik told Leo Laporte at Le Web yesterday, "There is now a universal startup culture all over the world."

Om's right, as usual. Anywhere you go, there's a startup community, an incubator or two, and a group of people doing exciting things. I've found this in Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Paris, Phoenix, Silicon Valley, London, Sao Paolo, Buenos Aires, and Santiago. And that's just me. I'm the last person to tell you I've seen it all. Om, for example, is headed for Helsinki after his appearance at Le Web, to "see what's happening there." My friend Dave McClure flew to Paris from Tokyo yesterday, and will fly from Paris to Delhi tomorrow.

Nothing is a better example of this new cultural universality than Le Web, this week's tech conference in Paris, where 3,500 people from 60 countries have come to see each other and worship at the altar of innovation. That's why Dave made an intermediate stop here on his survey of startups around the world for his venture fund/accelerator 500 Startups.

As a result of this week, Paris now has Uber cabs. (Uber has just received another $32 million in funding.) Flipboard has released its iPhone app. These and many other announcements were made at Le Web 2011 this year. I'm sitting in the front of its major auditorium (Le Web is spread across three buildings), where this morning Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, Dave McClure, and Bill Gross have already spoken to kick off day 2. I'm hanging on to this front seat for dear life so I can hear and see Marissa Mayer and George Clooney, coming up before lunch.

Loic Le Meur and his wife, Geraldine, started this conference six years ago to bring American entrepreneurs and financiers to Europe to see European entrepreneurs. Loic himself is the founder of Seesmic, and spends half his time in Paris and the other half in San Francisco.

In the intervening time between then and now, the social media revolution took place, and founders met financiers on Facebook and Twitter. Best practices have been shared, and servers have become virtual. For better or worse, the world economy has changed dramatically, and power has increasingly shifted to the developing world from the old centers like the U.S. and the U.K.

Today's young people will need to absorb and apply this culture to their lives. While they may not all introduce products through methods like "the lean startup," they will introduce themselves to a very different job market than the one their parents worked in. Their parents didn't have to start companies if they didn't want to, because they had "jobs." But this generation has Jobs, or his memory, as a mentor, and most "cool kids" don't want to work for anyone else. They'd rather change, or try to save, the world.

The entrepreneurial community owes Loic and Geraldine a huge debt of gratitude for their commitment to Le Web. In 1996, when I was at Intel, I realized that the Internet was going to connect the world. At the time, I thought that interconnectedness would bring greater understanding and hopefully, world peace. Those are still in the future, but the Internet has brought us something even more basic: new ways to survive and thrive. Only if you are old enough to have a historical perspective do you realize that this increasingly volatile and ever-changing world is a very exciting time to be alive.

And just so you know, I left Intel in 1997. It was a job, not a way to change the world:-)

[Image: Flickr user friedtoast]

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  • Betsy Aoki

    Betsy from Bing here...love this article! This October I was lucky enough to travel with 500 Startups and do Geeks on a Plane Asia and see a little bit for myself, the global startup culture. While every culture is different I loved seeing how the daring and work ethic and the hustle kept a sort of true line through each community's heart. At home, the program I work on for Bing  (bingbooster.com) focuses on 3 US metro areas - Boston, NYC and San Francisco, also show the great variety of approaches and timbres a startup commnuity can have, while all feeling related in spirit in some way.