“I did my last company without salary for 4 years. Blood, sweat & ramen”

Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber

The 2013 Leweb conference opened with some heavy hitters. With views as far from business school pitch decks, business plans and spreadsheets as possible. Which should make both business school professors and corporate strategist sit up and take notice too!

Guy Kawasaki, former Apple Evangelist, Alltop founder, venture capitalist and current Motorola advisor said that the only thing that matter is building a prototype and get traction. Anyone can make a nice presentation and a amazing forecast. Building product is the first hurdle and getting traction the second.THEN you can start worrying about business plans, pitch decks and spreadsheets.

Europe should inspire American startups

While many European entrepreneurs look to Silicon Valley for ideas to copy to their home markets, Guy thinks that is not enough:

“European entrepreneurs should make such a great products that American startups want to copy them”, he said.

On American startup that getting a huge amount of copycats is Uber.  There is an entire category of startups  “Like Uber for….” which Uber CEO Travis Kalanick says is a waste of time. Not because copyright reasons or blatant plagiarism, but because they have misunderstood Uber’s mission. It is not chauffeured cars.

“Uber is in the intersection of lifestyle and logistics. I get what I want when I want it. That means that Uber wants to be in every market relating to Logistics & Lifestyle, says Travis Kalanick.

He also slams government regulations that stifles markets in very weird ways. In New York there are about the same amount of cabs today as in the 1930ies. That means that every cab permits is worth around 1 million dollars In Paris, Uber must enforce an artificial 15 minute delay in order to not compete with regular cabs. In South Korea, Uber is not allowed to drive South Koreans

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. They can only drive foreigners, handicapped and the elderly (aren’t they South Koreans as well?). Other countries and cities aren’t too happy with the efficient service either.

“I can wallpaper my office with cease & desist letters. We even got one from New Orleans – where we don’t even operate!”

“It’s more important that you stay than pay”

Evernote CEO Phil Libin talked about monetisation. Evernote’s classical model is freemium, with some customers paying because they either need more space or they like to support the brand.

“If people haven’t paid us for two years, we do not see it as an expense as many other companies. We see that they use our product and give us their attention which is more important. It is also our fault that we don’t manage to get them to pay, so we have to figure out what would be so valuable to them that they will pay us in the future.”

It is also interesting to see how Evernote successfully is extending their loved brand into physical products, from scanners and iPad styluses to bags and CEO socks. It’s the business version of Angry Birds merchandising. It will be interesting to see if other successful online brand will and can do the same.

If you don’t invest in women, you’re stupid

“It is so hard to create a successful tech company that if you just limit yourself to invest in men, you’re stupid”, Guy Kawasaki answered a question from the audience about the difficulty for women to get funding. He went on to add that investments need to be completely blind to gender, skin color, sexual orientation, handicaps or nationality. But, as he said earlier in this post, the entrepreneur first need to create traction.

For both the investor and the entrepreneur, Guy underlines it must be about passion. He answered a follow up question about the pressure of moving from Europe to the US, or from a smaller European country to London or Berlin.

“If your investors demand you move to where they are, find other investors”

And  on a final note; Phil Libin’s new investments is in mammoths. Living woolly mammoths from the stone age. Figure that!