I have been hearing for several years that the DLD Conference in Munich, traditionally held just before the Davos World Economic Forum is a wonderful experience. Not being as lucky as Henry Blodget, I’ve never been invited to Davos, and Munich in January is not quite the escape from NYC snow that would normally draw me in. But after some discussions with Steffi Czerny and Yossi Vardi (the cochairs) last summer, I agreed to go. It was a terrific experience. Hubert Burda Media, which hosts it in wonderful and gracious style, knows how to throw a party. It’s an eclectic mix of technologists, media folks, and just plain interesting people from the US, Germany, Europe and Israel who want to hear about and learn about the future of media and the Digital Life Design at the heart of this.
The conference was live streamed, tweeted (hash tag #DLD11), and opened to the rest of the world, but the feeling of being there was special. Seeing Groupon’s Andrew Mason and Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley being interviewed by Kara Swisher was a treat. Andrew is such a genuine, aw shucks Midwesterner, one forgets that he turned down many billions for Groupon just a few weeks ago. And he revealed his fantasy bachelor party (a complex game played in Vegas with zombies, paintball guns, and black helicopters) that made me admire his sense of whimsy, which shows up in Groupon’s great copy, even more.
The opening discussion with Arthur Sulzberger and Hubert Burda showed some real contrast. Is old media really dead, and/or how fast will it die? With Times Digital generating real profits from the old about.com and it’s other efforts, the movement is there, but the audience wasn’t clear it could be fast enough. And Accel’s Jim Breyer was clear that he would not invest in any media that was predicated on a significant physical (paper) revenue stream.
There was a strong feeling from many speakers that the future is in apps – mobile, tablet, etc. And the major market will be in Asia, mainly China. Accel will deploy several billion dollars in venture money there over the next few years.
Two of the most interesting talks were (@dptapscott) Don Tapscott’s new take on MacroWikiNomics (the title of his new book), and Dr. Hubert Burda’s thoughtful discussion of how images have shaped our thinking, from his book The Digital WunderKammerer (the Digital Wonder Chamber). The mixture of art and media was fascinating and thought provoking – and the book has a beautiful collection of images.
For a US based venture capitalist (and there were a number of us there), a key question is how to get innovation and entrepreneurship to happen in Europe. Unfortunately, my discussions with German and UK based VCs showed that it’s very hard to get early stage companies funded and going. Part of it is how hard it is to make the pivot (As @Jason Calacanis discussed in his speech on Mahalo’s pivot), when you can’t fire anyone after 90 days – even though you might need quite different skills.
On the party side, the Burda folks had a blowout with Sting’s daughter Coco doing a great set opening for Duffy. Of course the sound levels made any conversation a bit tough, but they do know how to celebrate, and even the snow falling in Munich did not dampen the spirits.
Now I'm back in NYC, and it's still snowing, but I have lots of new ideas to think about. I'm living the DIgital Life, now I have to design it.