Let’s go! – by Stefanos Vasdekis A blog about entrepreneurship, the web2.0 world, and life.


Best time to think

You're in the plane traveling alone, your laptop's battery is empty, you don't have anything to read, there is no screen on the front seat, nobody's seating near you and you don't feel sleepy.

Perfect! You have some time for deep thinking and decision making. It's not a surprise that a lot of important decisions are made in similar situations.

Most western people are afraid to pause their busy schedule during a normal day and do nothing but thinking for some hours. That's why they're eager to find excuses and persuade themselves that they have more important things to do.

In a situation like the one I described in the plane, all excuses are lifted as there is nothing better to do.

Happy thinking!

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Your ads are not reaching me

You want me to be your customer. You're sure you'll catch me somewhere!

You advertise on TV. Sorry, I only watch TV for 2-3 hours a week and that's usually a football match - it goes without saying that I avoid advertisements in half time. If I want to watch a movie or a show, I can download it. I do go to the cinema as well, but I try to be 15 minutes late and lose the commercials.

You advertise on the radio. Sorry, I used to listen to the radio when I was driving, Now I listen to downloaded music and podcasts and use FF if there is an embedded promo.

You advertise on magazines and newspapers. The last time I remember myself going through a magazine was long ago at a doctor's waiting room. Now, even there I'm surfing the net through my mobile if no one around is interested to talk. Newspapers publish "old" news and scratch only the surface of stories.

You think you know where to reach me: online! So, you place banners at the sites you know I'm visiting. Well, I'm used to seeing a web page and completely ignore the banners and other ads! You don't even think to send me a spam email. You prefer to place paid ads on search engines. Nice move, but I never look at them let alone click them. If I can't find what I want in Google's free search results, I try del.icio.us. If it's not there, I know I use the wrong keywords, so I refine my search and try again. Of course, if I was searching for a hotel or a home, I'd use a travel search engine or real estate search engine accordingly. Now you know what you have to do, just be in these engines! Similarly, you have to be in as many places as possible, so that I can learn you exist without getting to me, for example have movie heroes use your products. Yes, this the first step, but it's not enough!

Let's say I'm looking for a hotel. I'll use kayak.com because it has the best filters and collects rates from many providers. When I apply the filters and 4-5 hotels are left, I'll look what people who have stayed there have to say, by looking at google, blogs and travel communities like tripadvisor and virtualtourist. If you think you can influence people's opinions with fake or paid posts, think again. I'll easily spot them and will not appreciate what you did. Also forget about advertising on these sites, I'm there to find information for a hotel I have preselected, not to look at another one that 99% is not a fit. The best way to sell to me is to have a great hotel and provide memorable service for the price you're asking, so that people love it, write and talk about it.

Don't try to get to me. Spend your advertising dollars on improving your product and service and be sure I'll find you. Not only me, but many others today and many more in the future.

Filed under: Marketing 1 Comment

Owning a business does not make you an entrepreneur

Just because you have size 2 jeans in your closet, does that mean that you are size 2?

Being an entrepreneur is much different than being a business owner, an investor, a manager or a freelancer!

The entrepreneur wants to be in control of his future, has a vision and will do anything it takes to succeed. The entrepreneur is a risk taker, he is confident that he can succeed, he is flexible and he is creative in acquiring the resources he needs often thinking outside the box...

We've all heard people saying "I'd like to be an entrepreneur, but I don't have the money...". What an oxymoron! Capital is just one of the resources the entrepreneur will need to serve his vision and it's his responsibility to gain access to it. 

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A paradox: LeWeb3 hostages could not communicate

Since the 2nd day of LeWeb3 the hottest discussion topic is how French politicians, invited by Loic, hijacked the conference. I see that over 9 out of 10 attendees didn't like that.
So, what did we do?
First of all, what should we have done?

During French politicians speeches the room was half empty when it should have been 90% empty... How is it possible the top technologists to be unable to communicate, when they have all the communication tools available?
What tools?
- Most of the participants had their laptops with them and the Wi-Fi was working quite well the second day, so they were online.
- There was a backstage irc channel.
- There was a wiki.
- There was a google group.
- There was the blogosphere.
- Instant messengers and emails could also have been used.
And there was plenty of time to communicate such a message between the visits of the two politicians. Isn't it a paradox?

Filed under: Business, Web 2.0 1 Comment

Leweb3 on a one to ten scale

le web3 in paris web2.0 conference

The best think that happened at LeWeb3 gets a 10, the worst gets a 1. Let's go:

10) The unique chance to meet 1000 like-minded people from 37 countries in one place

9) The conversations that took place at the coffee breaks, lunch breaks, dinners and meetups

8) The constructive feedback we got from angel investors and venture capitalists about our new project

7) The presentation of Hans Rosling

6) The live comments at the IRC backstage channel that worked the second day.

5) The 40 minutes we had to wait to get our coats after the party.

4) The boring presentations and panels

3) Mike Arrington did not come and nobody explained us why

2) The Wi-Fi was not working the first day

1) The French politicians who used our event for their campaigns.

Overall it was a GREAT way to begin my week and I'm glad I was there!

Filed under: Business, Web 2.0 2 Comments

Silicon Valley’s advantage over Europe – Live from Leweb3

We're on the second day of Leweb3 here in Paris. Since the warm-up meetups on Sunday, one of the hottest discussions is the comparison of being a startup company in Silicon Valley and Europe.

I've heard some negative comments for Europe like "Americans view Europe as a small market without innovation and they can always acquire if needed".

On the other hand, I've heard very positive comments about Europe like "If we're accused of not working hard and we still perform better than others, it means that we work smarter" or like "We have many examples of tech companies that made it big, stop discussing if we can compete with Silicon Valley or not and let's do it. In Silicon Valley nobody discusses if they can compete against Europe...

One thing everyone agrees is that one of the big advantages of Silicon Valley is that a whole innovative community is concentrated in a one hour drive radius. Smart entrepreneurs, developers, angels, VCs, universities and tech journalists. As you go to Hollywood to make movies, as you go to New York or London for stocks, you go to Silicon Valley to make innovative software. I believe that this is by far the most important advantage of Silicon Valley compared to Europe.

I've met smart guys from both sides of the Atlantic. I don't see any signs that Americans are smarter than Europeans. They might be more entrepreneurial, but Europeans have other qualities. For example they speak at least 2-3 languages and better understand the international aspect of the web. Especially those of us who don't come from Germany, UK or France, but from a small market, we're forced to look abroad right from the beginning if we want to do something significant.

Well, if we all agree, why not to build the European Silicon Valley? And I don't mean to expect from EU bureaucrats to build one for us, because it will take a century... If this project was ever to become reality and I had a chance to propose a place, that would be in Mediterranean of course, and specifically Crete Island in Greece.

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A European paradox: cannot transform knowledge into products

I was at the European Parliament the previous week for the annual summit of European young entrepreneurs (YES for Europe). I found the most interesting presentation to be Mr Horst Soboll's, Chairman of the European Research Advisory Board of the European Commission. The strongest point he made was that Europe has serious problems transforming knowledge successfully into commercial viable products and services. Europe's share of world scientific publications is 38.3% compared to 31.1% of US. On the other hand, Europe's share of world triadic patents is 31.5% compared to 34.3% of US. And Europe's share of world high tech exports is 16.7% compared to 20.0% of US. What's happening? We have a paradox here. It seems that in Europe we're more interested in acquiring more knowledge than transforming it to products. Well, maybe this paradox has its roots in schools, where teachers ask students to go find information rather than try to use the information. What's the meaning of asking students to collect information about a subject? Wake up! Students know how to use internet better than teachers to find any information. It's how to use the information that is important.

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Why we work in Stealth Mode this time

[update: site sold too early...]

Many people believe that startups in stealth mode suck or that stealth mode is a big mistake, but I like the experience so far... The last weeks I'm working with John on our first project we keep secret. And there are many reasons that we decided to keep it secret.

No, we do NOT try to protect our idea as if nobody else has ever thought of it. We're confident we could beat in execution any other team with the same idea :)

And no, we don't try to be perfect at launch; we're old enough to know it's not possible.

The reasons are simple. We just try to work quietly and be 100% concentrated on developing the site. We don't need to advertise at this stage. And we're changing things every day, if we were in beta mode, we would have to spend half our day explaining to our first members what has changed and why. By the way, it's not clear yet what exactly our final messaging will be, and this is the only thing we wouldn't like to change soon after it's decided.

So far I see stealth mode as a huge timesaver. We're talking less and we're working more! I hope we don't like this mode so much that we never escape from it...

[update: site sold too early...]

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Is this a “web 2.0″ design? 26 characteristics to look for

A breakdown of most common characteristics of "web 2.0" websites.

Every "web 2.0" website has some of the following characteristics, I would estimate at least 10. No, I didn't use any scientific method to get to this number, it's just an intuitive estimation.

Here is the list:

1) Use of AJAX: It's synonymous with web 2.0, the less times the page refreshes, the more "web 2.0" the site is. Use of features like search suggest or drag and drop make it even more "web 2.0" and more user friendly. Example: gmail who made AJAX famous

2) Big fonts in headers and text. Example: 37signals

3) Big buttons and big text fields in forms. Example: digg signup

4) Gradient boxes. Example: kaboodle. Photoshop Tutorial in Web 2.0 Design Kit

5) Diagonal stripes. Usually in the background. Example: techcrunch. Photoshop tutorial: designmeltdown 

6) Centered layouts. It's rare to find a left aligned layout anymore. Example: videoegg

7) Highlighted text. Example: amberjack

8) Reflections. Usually in logos. Example: fluxiom. Photoshop tutorial: planetphotoshop

9) Shades. Example: ning. Photoshop Tutorial in Web 2.0 Design Kit

10) A live counter. How much space in gmail, how many clicks tracked with crazyegg, how many calories burned with traineo.

11) Trademark round flashes. These "sign up" or "free" star shape graphics are everywhere. Example: traineo sign-up graphic. Photoshop Tutorial in Web 2.0 Design Kit

12) Cute icons. Example: itsdex

13) Rounded corners. Example: crazyegg. Photoshop Tutorial in Web 2.0 Design Kit

14) Links with highlighted background on mouseover. Example: flickr

15) The "BETA" notice near the logo. Some projects never escape the beta mode... Example: kosmix

16) A tag cloud. This is a must have. Example: 43things

17) RSS feeds with the well known "subscribe me" buttons. Example: feedburner

18) Neutral colored fading backgrounds. Example: edgeio

19) A link to the blog. Example: mobissimo

20) Big footer. Example: linkedin

21) Use of shades of green. Green is the color of web 2.0 and a common choice for web 2.0 websites. Example: ning

22) The word "Free" is often mentioned. Most web 2.0 websites are free and depend on advertising to make money. Example: wikipedia

23) Instant validation and yellow-fade technique. When you edit something on the page a yellow highlight briefly spotlights the change when the page reloads. Example: 37signals who made it famous

24) A lot of white space that makes text easier to read. Example: linkedin

25) Friendly and funny error message when the website is down. Example: funny error 404 page

26) Members' thumbnails (avatars) featured on the homepage. Most web 2.0 websites have a community. It's all about social networking after all... Example: mybloglog

Filed under: Web 2.0 1 Comment

2 very unique hotels in Berlin

This 5 star Radisson SAS Hotel in Berlin Mitte has in the lobby the world's largest cylindrical aquarium! It's 25 metres high with 2,500 tropical fish. Except for being interesting from an engineering view, it's also very relaxing to have an ocean view at the heart of Europe, and it's also very funny to see divers cleaning the aquarium while you're having breakfast. I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Berlin. At the time I visited, the best deal was an offer they had at their own website: http://berlin.radissonsas.com/

Propeller Island City Lodge is an extraordinary hotel with 30 different rooms! All rooms and objects were created by the German artist Lars Stroschen. Much more appropriate than "hotel" is the designation "living in a work of art". "Unique" is meant literally, for the entirety of all furnishings and other objects are custom-made. When I visit I'd like to stay at room no15: http://www.propeller-island.de/rooms_neu/room_detail/15/index.php

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