Spotify’s Daniel Ek at LeWeb: Two and a Half Million Paying Users, No Plans for an IPO Yet


Spotify founder Daniel Ek joined LeWeb founder and host Loic Le Meur on stage in Paris earlier today to talk about the state of Spotify. The discussion focused on a wide range of topics, ranging from Spotify’s new platform, the company’s relationship with Facebook and why it took the company so long to launch in the United States. Spotify also announced a new radio app for Spotify that was built by the company’s team in New York.

The new radio app in Spotify allows users to skip unlimited songs, something Pandora doesn’t allow its users, of course. The new “Artist Radio” experience brings Spotify on par with services like MOG, which have long offered a radio experience. For Spotify, which always focused strongly on playlists, this is quite a bit of a departure from its regular user experience. To get access to this new feature, you have to download a preview version of Spotify.

Ek also announced that Spotify now has two and a half million paying users, most of which pay around 10 Euro per month. Spotify also announced that it added about 7 million new users since (and because of) the launch of its Facebook integration. Sharing, especially through Facebook, has become a major driver for Spotify’s growth and in Ek’s view, this kind of discovery service is now a central feature of the service. The company doesn’t have any immediate plans for an IPO.

Spotify’s Origins

Spotify’s origins, said Ek, were a reaction to the piracy problem – especially in Scandinavia. While users loved Napster, this model obviously didn’t work for the music industry. Spotify did not aim to disrupt the music industry, but just wanted to make life easier for the users. Indeed, he stressed that he basically wants music to become a utility just like water or electricity.

For Ek, the user experience is the most important thing about his product. Entrepreneurs have to focus on solving problems. While many told him that having to download a client to use Spotify would be a major problem. The reality was that users loved the product because it solved a problem and didn’t care about having to download an app on their computers.

Asked about how long it took Spotify to launch in the U.S., Ek noted, it took the company two years to launch because of its extended discussions with the record labels.

In an interesting anecdote, Ek also talked about getting Sean Parker as an investor. Parker, apparently, wrote Ek a very long email, explaining the parts of Spotify he loved and hated. This, said Ek, opened up a channel for the two which then resulted in Parker’s investment.

Ek’s Advice for Entrepreneurs

As for advice to European entrepreneurs, Ek argued that execution is everything. Location, to some degree, doesn’t really matter that much in this view. People, too, he noted “is everything.” Entrepreneurs, too, should try everything but not do everything. They should also be open to learn from the people the work with.

10:45 am

Marissa Mayer at LeWeb: Google+ Was a Pleasant Surprise


Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president for local, as well as maps and location services, was interviewed by Crunchfund’s MG Siegler on stage at the LeWeb conference in Paris this morning. This wide-ranging interview touched upon everything from Google+ check-ins, Latitude, mobile maps, Android and Mayer’s own role at Google.

Mayer’s Role at Google Today

Mayer has long been one of the most visible faces of Google’s executive team (and a regular guest at LeWeb), though last year, her role shifted from being in charge of search products to a focus on location products. Asked about this title switch by Siegler, Mayer noted that titles don’t matter much to her but that she cares more about what the focuses on. While this is obviously a very political answer, quite a few pundits at the time wondered whether Mayer wasn’t actually demoted in this move.

Google+: A Pleasant Surprise

Google+, said Mayer, was a “pleasant surprise.” She stressed that Google learned a lot from its first failed social products like Wave and Buzz. She also noted that Google tried not to over-hype Google+ and launch it slowly (though one could argue that a product with millions of users isn’t really in a “field test”).  To her, the fact that the company placed a stronger emphasis on design with Google+ is also a major factor in the product’s success.

Google+ Check-In Deals Coming Next Week

Asked about Google’s recently leaked Google+ check-in deals, Mayer argued that check-ins are a useful feature for the company’s users. “We think there are interesting ways we can monetize this, but also ways to help our users safe money.” The check-in feature is now slated for launch next week.

According to Mayer, Google is also still working on its other location features outside of Google+, too, including Latitude. New features for Latitude are currently still in the works, so chances are this tool won’t be the next victim of Google’s spring cleaning campaign.

Google’s View of the Location Space as a Whole

As for the location space as a whole, Mayer noted that she thinks there is still a lot of competition in local, even as Facebook and Gowalla have now bowed out of some aspects of it. To her, it’s natural that there will be some long-term winners and losers and that it’s inevitable that some companies will drop of the radar.

To Google, maps are among the most-used features on phones. Since June 2011, Google has been seeing more maps usage on mobile devices than on the web every day (until then, mobile usage only surpassed the desktop on weekends sometimes).

11:17 am

Evernote Now Has 20 Million Users, Partners with Orange in France


At LeWeb this morning, the conference’s host and Seesmic founder Loic Le Meur interviewed Evernote founder and CEO Phil Libin. One of Evernote’s tenets is to be as transparent as possible. Due to this, Libin is generally not shy about sharing any data about the company. This year, for example, he noted that Evernote now has 20 million users, a number that’s almost double from just 12 months ago.

Evernote Stats

Looking at the company’s vast amount of data about its customers, Libin also noticed that many of the people who leave Evernote at some point tend to come back later. While many users leave after about 10 months of using the service, quite a lot of them then come back about 10 months later.

Evernote now also have about 9,000 partner apps that use the company’s API.

As for the company’s freemium model, Libin noted that after the first month, only about one half of one percent pay, but just under 27% of those who stay for 40 months now pay. Evernote turned profitable about 6 months ago, but due to its recent hiring spree and international expansion, the company isn’t currently profitable anymore, though Libin obviously expects it to return to profitability soon.

The company’s users pay either $5 for a monthly subscription to its premium features of $50 for a yearly subscription.

Orange Partners with Evernote in France

Evernote also today announced a partnership with Orange in France, one of the largest mobile and broadband carriers in Europe. According to Orange’s Paul-Francois Fournier, the conversation between Evernote and Orange started about a year ago at LeWeb. All of Orange’s customers will get free access to Evernote’s premium features for a year. This is Evernote’s first European partnership and will go into effect in the spring of 2012.

This is Evernote’s second major partnership after also signing a similar deal with DoCoMo in Japan earlier this year.

A Good Week for Evernote

Evernote was also named one of Inc. magazine’s companies of the year. As Libin noted, he didn’t even know about this until he saw the magazine on a newsstand at the airport earlier this week.

Evernote also just launched its food application for iOS earlier this week.

9:54 am

Eric Schmidt at LeWeb


During LeWeb in Paris this afternoon, Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt took the stage together with Loic Le Meur to discuss a wide variety of topics, including the state of local and mobile development, the state of Google Android and the role of technology in society. Talking about politics, for example, Schmidt noted that the idea of “social, local and mobile has been around for thousands of year,” but while technology can enable political movements, it won’t provide societies (like Egypt) with new leaders.

After demoing the Ice Cream Sandwich release of Android, including face unlock, people cards and some of the built-in Google+ features, Schmidt and Le Meur talked about virtually all of Google’s business areas in an office-hour like conversation that sometimes lacked focus but made up for that by covering such a broad range of topics.

Talking about Android, Schmidt argued that it’s important to remember that phones are not so much about features but about communication and being social (and argument that Microsoft would likely also make about Windows Phone, by the way). “There was a time,” Schmidt said,” where we thought phones were all about features.” With Ice Cream Sandwich, Google aims to focus on making communication easy and allowing its users to be social (centered around Google+, of course).

Governments and Internet Access

Talking about the role of governments in providing connectivity, Schmidt argued that they have to make sure that all of their citizens have wired and wireless access to the Internet. This will then, in his view, almost automatically lead to the creation of new jobs and innovation.

Looking forward, Schmidt noted that we will all soon have multiple IP addresses attached to us in some form. Computers, Schmidt said, will continue to do the things they do very well, but won’t replace human intuition and creativity.

Building Scalable Platforms

Talking to the developers in the room, Schmidt noted that, going forward, “the most successful companies will build scalable platforms that will scale amazingly fast.”

European Startups

As far as startups in Europe go, Schmidt argued that the competition among major centers like Paris and Berlin is a good thing. If their local governments don’t support them, he said, they should just move to another center or, to the U.S., where “they will then not get a visa because we are idiots.”

Consolidation of Google’s Products

Asked about the recent consolidation of Google’s product lineup, Schmidt reminded the audience that Google is now focussing mostly on seven product areas, including search, ads, commerce, Chrome and others. We should not, however, think that Google isn’t still committed to innovation, but within the context of these seven major areas for Google.

Driverless Cars

Asked about Google’s advanced projects, Schmidt noted that he first thought a project like driverless cars weren’t an idea Google should be interested in. Now, however, he thinks that it’s a very useful project that Google itself may not be able to productize, but that Google can help other companies turn into products. In his view, most of the cars on the road will be driverless in our lifetime.



1:59 pm

Kevin Rose at LeWeb: “I Made a Lot of Mistakes at Digg”


Talking to TWiT‘s Leo Laporte and Sarah Lane at LeWeb today, Digg‘s founder Kevin Rose noted that he made lots of mistakes while he was still in charge of the popular social bookmarking site. According to Rose, “the first three years were insane.” Rose, however, acknowledged, that he learned a lot on the job by making plenty of mistakes, most importantly with regard to hiring and feature development.

Rose’s Biggest Mistakes: Hiring, Feature Development

According to Rose, “there is a temptation that you want to throw as many developers as possible at a problem.” As Digg was built on top of PHP, the company would hire too many developers that specialized in this language. Then, however, Rose noted, “you end up with lots of PHP developers, but at some point, PHP isn’t a problem anymore and you are stuck with all of those developers.” At that point, said Rose, you end up having to hire a lot of developers that can do other things and don’t know what to do with the old developers.

Talking about the Digg community, Rose also noted that keeping the often unruly group of users on the site in control was often a problem. During the last presidential election in the U.S., for example, Rose would get death threats when too many pro-Obama stories hit the Digg frontpage.

Digg today still gets about 20 million uniques according to Rose, but at the height of the service’s popularity, it was getting about 38 million uniques.

11:25 am

Flipboard’s CEO Mike McCue: We’re Now on 10% of All iPads, No Android Version in the Works Yet


During a conversation with Loic Le Meur at the annual LeWeb conference in Paris today, Flipboard‘s highly energetic founder and CEO Mike McCue talked about the origins of his company and why there is no Android version of Flipboard yet. The company’s CEO also noted that his app is already on about 10% of all iPads. With the launch of Flipboard’s iPhone app today, chances are it will be on quite a few iPhones soon as well.

During his presentations, McCue took some time to demo the new Flipboard iPhone app. He specifically focused on the one new feature the iPhone version introduced: Cover Stories. With this, users can easily get a quick overview of all the top stories around the categories they subscribe to.

Origins of Flipboard

McCue, who was at Netscape in the mid-90s, talked about how he watched the web evolve in the early years and how he wondered why the web never quite looked as well as print magazines. Then, as social media started to become popular and as the iPad arrived on the scene, his vision for a magazine-like view of the web became possible. Having raised $60 million so far, the company decided to bet on the tablet platform early. For now, though, McCue noted, the company doesn’t have significant revenue. Instead, Flipboard’s focus for now is on building great apps and expanding internationally.


Asked why Flipboard hasn’t launched on Android yet, McCue argued that there are simply not enough Android tablets yet. He also wants to ensure that his apps are as high-quality as possible, which, in his view, is only possible as long as the developers remain focused. He did, however, leave the possibility of an Android app open for the future. Development of the Android app hasn’t started yet, though.

11:09 am

Uber Arrives in Paris – Closes $32 Million Round from Menlo Ventures, Goldman Sachs and Bezos Expeditions


Uber, the private car company that is especially popular in San Francisco these days, today announced that it is launching in Paris today. After 18 months of operating in the U.S., Uber is now expanding internationally. As the company’s CEO co-founder Travis Kalanick told CrunchFund’s MG Siegler on stage at LeWeb in Paris today, the idea for Uber was actually born out of the frustration of finding taxis in Paris. Rolling out in Paris, Kalanich noted, was similar to rolling out the service in San Francisco, as the regulatory environment is quite comparable. Uber also aimed to stay ahead of the copycat industry that is so prevalent in Europe and often makes entering the European market hard for U.S. firms.

Coming to Paris – More Cities in the Works

Uber expects to roll the service out in about 20 more cities in Europe in the next year or so. The idea for the company is to launch in about one or two cities per month.

It’s worth noting, though, that Uber fares in Paris will be roughly 75% more expensive than regular taxis in the city. Uber is launching with 60 cars at first. According to Kalanick, about a third to half of all of Uber’s drivers are fully dedicated to using Uber. Others use the product to fill their dead time.

Raising $32 Million

In addition, Travis Kalanick also announced that Uber just raised $32 million from Menlo Ventures, Goldman Sachs, and Jeff Bezos’ venture capital firm Bezos Expeditions. With this, the company is also likely on course for an IPO in the next few years. Uber actually raised closer to $39 million in this C-round, but is keeping some of the money on the table for now.


10:18 am

SiliconFilter Goes LeWeb


For two years now, I’ve attended LeWeb in Paris in December and this week will mark my third trip to Loic and Geraldine Le Meur’s annual event. Every year, over 3,000 people come together to see some of the most important Internet entrepreneurs from the U.S. and Europe on stage at LeWeb. The conference may not be the cheapest or easiest to get to, but I can’t really think of any similar event that is organized more professionally than this one and attracts a higher quality of participants. As an “official blogger” at the conference this year, I will make LeWeb the main topic on this site for the next few days.

For the first time ever, the conference is scheduled to run for three days instead of two. With appearance by Google’s Eric Schmidt and Marissa Mayer, Foursquare’s Denis Crowley, Flipboard’s MikeMcCue, Path’s Dave Morin, Spotify’s Daniel Ek, Evernote’s Phil Libin, Techmeme’s Gabe Rivera and plenty of other Internet stars like Sean Parker, Leo Laporte and Kevin Rose, chances are, we won’t be lost of interesting things to write about.

Follow LeWeb on the Net

The conference runs from Wednesday to Friday and thanks to the time difference between Europe and the U.S. chances are most of the news will have already happened by the time you wake up if you are in the U.S. If you are awake (and maybe in Europe or another country where the time difference is a bit more convenient, you will also be able to watch a number live video streams: the main stage, the secondary stage (scene of the startup competition, among other things) and the LeWeb Live TV studio hosted by Leo Laporte and others.

4:00 pm