Announcing Going Solo [en]

[fr] J'ai annoncé il y a quelques semaines que j'avais des projets de création d'entreprise: c'est en route, et nous préparons pour début mai une conférence-événement (une journée de conférences) à l'attention des indépendants du web. En dehors de savoir faire des trucs cools, être indépendant (ou une TPE) pose un tas de problèmes "accessoires": comment fixer les tarifs? approcher les clients, ou mieux, les aider à nous trouver? s'en sortir avec l'administratif? trouver un équilibre de vie entre travail et loisirs, surtout si l'on a fait de sa passion son métier?

Après avoir pensé à Berlin, Paris, et Londres -- nous visons un public européen -- nous avons finalement opté pour Lausanne. A deux pas de l'aéroport de Genève, très joli cadre, et aussi, pratique pour les organisatrices principales, toutes lausannoises.

Je vous parlerai de tout ceci plus longuement dans les jours à venir!

So, here we go. [As I mentioned in my last post](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/12/news-from-leweb3/), things are shaping up enough for me to start talking about them, even though a lot is still “floating”.

I’m taking the plunge into the event business. The first one I’m organising is *Going Solo*, a one-day conference in the beautiful and easily accessible city of Lausanne in Switzerland, which also happens to be my home town. It will take place early May.

**Going Solo will fill a gap in the current conference offerings: it’s an event for freelancers of the web industry** (soloists, hence the name) and very small businesses — from all over Europe.

Being a freelancer myself, I’ve come to realise quite a while ago that there is more to freelancing than “knowing cool stuff” and having people around willing to pay for it. How do you fix your prices? Close deals? Find clients, or better, help them find you? Collaborate with others, whether soloists themselves, or employees in a huge company? Deal with taxes, contracts, accounting, and all the rest of the boring administrative stuff? Achieve that delicate “work/life balance”, when you’re one of the lucky ones who turned a passion into a job?

Going Solo will address all these issues (and others), providing those attending with valuable insights and tools which will help them become better at what they are doing in the business world. (Sounds almost like a press release, doesn’t it? I’m practising for the sponsor offerings… shhh.)

In simple words: this is the kind of event I would have wanted to attend two years ago when I was struggling with the idea of becoming freelance. It’s the kind of event I would have liked to attend a year ago when things took off and I started realising how complicated all this “business” stuff was. And it’s also the kind of event I want to attend today, having faced the ups and downs of freelancing in the fast-moving world of new media, in the early stages of starting a company, and wondering what “holidays” means now that my everyday life is split between “hang out online”, “travel to foreign cities”, and “talk about exciting stuff with people”.

Where-when-what-how-why?

I’ll follow up later with a little insight into what’s going on. Be warned, though: you’re going to be following some thought processes here, and might be faced with decisions-in-the-making and not-sure-what-I’ll-do-yets. I welcome all feedback.

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News from LeWeb3 [en]

[fr] Je suis à la conférence LeWeb3, et pour une fois, je ne suis pas en train de bloguer les sessions. Je suis ici pour une autre raison: entamer des discussions avec des sponsors potentiels pour la conférence-événement que j'organise début mai. Je vous dirai plus à ce sujet dans un futur billet, mais si vous me voyez au Web3, n'hésitez pas à venir me demander, je vous en parle volontiers!

This is going to be a quick and dirty posting. Lock up your sheep and warn Grandma.

The reason you haven’t seen much liveblogging from LeWeb3 is that I haven’t really been attending the sessions. To be honest, not many seemed that interesting to me (I’m aware, this year, that I’m not the target audience, so that’s OK with me). But aside from that, this is the first time I’m coming to an event with an explicit goal other than “watch interesting talks” and “catch up with friends and make new ones”.

Remember, some time back, when I told you I was [starting a company](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/13/im-starting-a-company/)? Well, things are starting to warm up and take shape. I’ll blog about it in more detail (probably on the train going back home this evening), of course, but here’s a tidbit for those of you I haven’t yet had a chance to speak about it directly.

LeWeb3 2007 marks the beginning of my discussions with companies interested in sponsoring the event that I will be holding early May. And so far, honestly, I’m really excited about how people have reacted (potential partners *and* attendees). But as I said, more details in a bit.

Back to LeWeb3: first of all, I’d like to say I wasn’t really planning on attending as I had been quite disappointed with last year, but following the [nasty things I said about the event last year](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/12/12/le-web-3-et-sarko/), Loïc kindly invited me to come and see for myself that he wasn’t going to do “les mêmes conneries” twice in a row (his words) ;-). So, thanks for the invite, and here are a few complaints and praises.

– The wifi was flakey yesterday, though not as bad as last year. I had a bit of trouble logging on right now, but finally made it. – The food is delicious, as it was last year. I think a buffet for lunch is a really good idea.
– I didn’t like the first rows being reserved for the press — it did eliminate any impulse I might have had to liveblog.
– I like the venue. The lobby is arranged carefully, with enough small tables to fill in the empty space and encourage people to congregate.
– Shuttle bus: great. Really.
– Badges with information printed on one side only. Really. Stop doing that, conference organisers. Specially if the hangy-thing for the badge is meant to swirl around.
– Good to have video of talks in the networking area. I can write this post and keep an eye on it so I don’t miss [Doc Searls](http://www.searls.com/). (You don’t want to miss Doc. Or [David](http://www.hyperorg.com/blogger/).)

Don’t hesitate and come up to speak to me, specially if you’d like to sponsor my event (I’ll tell you all about it). I’m **not** [suffering from conference overload and oversocialisation right now](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/10/06/too-many-people/) and quite happy to network and chat.

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Competition, Colleagues, or Partners? [en]

[fr] Avec mon projet de démarrage de boîte, je me retrouve à me demander comment exactement l'on définit la concurrence. Qui seront mes concurrents? Quelle genre de relation peut-on avoir avec "la concurrence", surtout lorsque ceux-ci sont des amis ou des connaissances? Est-il possible d'aspirer à un rapport s'approchant de celui de collègues, plutôt qu'une guerre sans merci? Vos idées et expériences sur la question m'intéressent.

In the last ten days I’ve started planning, thinking, and talking about [my new company](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/13/im-starting-a-company/). One of the things I’m struggling with at the moment (besides finding a name which isn’t already taken, isn’t too lame, and won’t get me sued) is how to consider others that are in the field I want to step into (I haven’t told you yet, have I?)

Very obviously, they are competition. My company is going to be doing stuff similar to theirs. But I don’t have the feeling it’s really clear-cut. I mean, look at the “social media consulting” business. Amongst my acquaintances and friends, there are many people who do similar things to me. But they feel more like colleagues than competition.

Is it simply because our skills overlap imperfectly, and our markets are geographically or economically separated?

As I understand it, to be competition, two companies (or people) need to be competing for the same clients/users, and this competition has to be exclusive. By that, I mean that if the client/user decides to go with company A, company B is going to lose his business. I guess this is pretty obvious.

So this is what I’m wondering about. I’m preparing to enter a market which is not totally new. There are already people/companies doing what I want to do. But I’m going to do it in a unique way — mine. Does that still mean the others are “competition”? and in that case — for those of these others who are friends or contacts — does that mean that I will be perceived as a threat, and that any “network benefits” I would have had from those people is to be considered lost? Is it going to have a negative impact on these relationships?

This seems pretty tough. (Maybe it’s just the business world, and I need to toughen up, but I don’t like this side of it, if it is.)

I’m not here to put others out of business. I want to do things better, appeal to a different audience, or “increase the consumption” (horribly way to phrase things, but I don’t have anything better on the tip of my tongue without being more specific) of the current “audience”.

I’m aware I might be coming across as terribly naive to all of you seasoned entrepreneurs and business people out there. But I’d like to believe it’s possible to “play nice” with “competition” — maybe not to the extent that they become partners, but at least something resembling a relationship between colleagues. A relationship where help can be given, contacts shared, advice and lessons learned dispensed. Even if I wouldn’t go so far as to expect partnership.

What about partners, then? Can they be involved with the competition? Could they have interests in one’s competition? (That sound like a bad idea, said like that.) Conflicts of interests aren’t good, that’s certain — but can we really be free of them?

I know that without the specifics this may seem a little abstract, but I’d really love to hear what you all think about this.

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I'm Starting a Company [en]

[fr] J'ai décidé de créer une entreprise. Eh oui. Sans donner trop de détails, je peux déjà vous dire qu'il ne s'agira pas principalement de consulting web (même si je ne renonce pas à mes activités professionnelles courantes) et que ce ne sera pas non plus une application web. Par contre, ce sera l'occasion de faire bon usage de mon réseau.

Un peu étrange pour moi, mais ce sera aussi la première fois dans ma vie que j'entreprends quelque chose dans le but avoué de gagner de l'argent. Bien entendu, ce ne sera pas aux dépens des produits/services/clients/utilisateurs/employés/collaborateurs/partenaires... Je reste qui je suis et j'ai des valeurs auxquelles je tiens 😉

If you [follow me on Twitter](http://twitter.com/stephtara), then you’ve certainly already [heard the news](http://twitter.com/stephtara/statuses/387658512): I’m starting a company. Now, though I’ve told a few people online and off what it was about (shhh), I’m not going to spill all the beans right now (have to keep you wondering for a bit, right?).

What I’ll say for the moment is the following:

– I’m not “retiring” from any of what I’m doing now (I’m still for hire for my usual consulting/speaking/experiential-marketing/etc. stuff, though I might be a bit busier in the coming months, so plan ahead!)
– my company’s main business will *not* be consulting, and it will *not* be a web app (that narrows it down, doesn’t it?)
– strange as it may sound for me to say this, for the first time in my life I’m making a professional decision with the intent of earning money (though not at the expense of my products/services/users/clients/employees/partners, obviously)
– I’m still thinking about a name (“Pink” stuff is out, unfortunately — that should give you a serious hint)
– this will be a chance for me to put my network to good use (amongst other things, I intend to surround myself with great advisors/partners/collaborators).

I’m excited! Full of questions and ideas, but really excited 🙂

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