Loic Le Meur at Microsoft Bizspark UK 2010

September 25, 2010

Loic Le Meur at Microsoft BizsparkI love Loic Le Meur; I suspect everyone who’s ever heard him speak does too. Yes, he’s a successful entrepreneur with a track-record, but I guess it’s more his mix of beaming smiles, Gallic charm and accent and his positive, upbeat and enthusiastic manner which combined has contributed to making Loic one of the influential people in tech world-wide.  He talks of his passion for what he does, and it’s that which motivates him and not money. The passion comes across clearly.

Loic is the founder and CEO at Seesmic, which provides a multi-platform way to communicate and “manage your brand online” (an “obsession” of his). Along with his wife Geraldine, he founded one of the World’s major web conferences, Le Web, which takes place every December in Paris. (It’s well worth going for the 2 day event, it brings the best of Europe and Silicon Valley together. Here are some of my blogs from Le Web 09).

But as a significant figure in Europe why did he relocate himself and family to Silicon Valley three years ago?

“It’s more difficult in Europe, but in the bay area there is easy access to everyone within a short drive. Everything is central, Silicon Valley feels like one big campus and it’s full of energy.” Settling in was easy as “most people in Silicon Valley are not from Silicon Valley and [unlike in Europe] they are genuinely willing to help”.

In Europe are we just not willing to pay it forward? Later on, during a discussion about funding, someone elegantly illustrated the difference between US and Europe; in the US there is a “virtuous circle” of US entrepreneurs who later become investors, and keep going through this process again and again. In Europe – for whatever reason – after succeeding and exiting, entrepreneurs seem to retire with their money and the cycle is broken.

Investors and Pivots

Getting under the hood a bit more of Seesmic, Loic explained that it started out as a video chat platform – a medium he still firmly believes in – but there was a problem scaling it beyond their initial hard core of 100,000 users. Quite simply, a lot of people are not very comfortable with video as a communications medium. So despite the initial success, Seesmic made the move to another product.

He explained, “Good investors know its not what you start with that matters but where you end up”, and added, “The crucial element is the trust and relationship that you have with your investors.” He also acknowledged that he was in a fortunate position in being well-funded which allowed him to do that, build the platform and grow the community ahead of monitising.

In his closing remarks he asked us all simply to think, “What can you be the best in the world at?” and to build a community around that.

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Thanks to Bindi Karia and the Microsoft Bizspark programme for the opportunity to attend. If you are a startup, make sure you register with Bizspark.


Richard Tait – pursuing passion and creating joy in the workplace

October 21, 2009

Richard TaitI should have been on a plane heading back to Europe yesterday but instead I rearranged my plans and extended my stay here in the San Francisco bay area to listen once again to the truly unique Richard Tait of boomboom. Yes, he really is that good and his story should be broadcast wide to entrepreneurs as you can learn a lot from someone who lives his life with such passion and enthusiasm.

Richard was speaking to a group of University students and started by explaining that “I want to inspire and resonate with just one person in the room, and get the message across to follow your heart”. At this point everyone realised they were not going to get the run-of-the-mill CEO talk. Having seen Richard speak before at The Entrepreneurial Exchange I knew what to expect; what he said resonated with me and showed me how you can operate a business using culture as the bedrock.

An exceptional career

After completing his undergraduate degree and fighting against the system in the UK which turns away MBA candidates without work experience, he enrolled at the Tuck school of business at Dartmouth College. That led to a transformational job with Microsoft, when the company only had around 2000 employees and at a point in time when its mission was crystal clear, putting a PC on every desk. Just four days into being there he was given the opportunity to lead a 100 strong team developing a major new project; Microsoft was a strict meritocracy and willing to take risks with the exceptional talent available to them. Ten years later, during which time he had won the employee of the year award and started numerous successful business within the company came the next major fork in his life when he realised that the culture had changed as the company had grown and he no longer enjoyed working there.

Cranium & culture

Some people are great at pictionary but struggle with scrabble, equally there are plenty of people who excel at scrabble and not at pictionary. This simple truth learnt while playing those 2 games with friends was the genesis for the board game Cranium, a game where everyone would have a chance to shine at whatever their talent is. Or to put it another way, “an entertainment company that celebrates the human spirit”. That very clear vision, coupled with a clearly defined set of core values created an amazing company culture. That in turn happened to create the third largest games company in the World, and it became such a thorn in Hasbro’s side that they eventually bought the company last year. Now Cranium exists as a single game in their enormous portfolio, and the team and the culture that went with it has died. It’s no wonder that Richard explains how it “broke his heart”. Happily though at a recent picnic for employees one year on, the culture and spirit continues and people look back fondly on their times together.

The secret sauce

There is no doubt that Richard has an exceptional business talent and his meteoric career is no doubt down to this and working very hard and making personal sacrifices along the way. However, it’s the style and authenticity in which he has done it all which is what we should learn from, it’s inspiring and exceptional.

His advice for life is to pursue your passion and be joyful; focus on what interests you. (And when you do it’s really not that difficult to communicate).

He is a poetic story-teller and speaks with tremendous conviction and a disarming level of transparency and honesty. Why? Richard is being nothing other than being himself and that makes it easier to achieve business objectives. Much of business is about trust and persuasion, whether it’s convincing a customer to buy from you or an investor to part with their cash.

Richard’s talent is the ability to tell a story and get people to believe, to buy in, and to love it (and him). I was told that after meeting Richard a VC said to his colleague that although he wasn’t sure about the business idea or whether it would work financially they had to invest because of Richard.

Richard’s talent to persuade and transform has been recognised by someone famous for both those qualities as he was recently hired by Howard Schultz, founder and CEO of Starbucks to work on a transformational project. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the title of Howard’s autobiography happens to be…

Pour your heart into it“.

Books as recommended by Richard: