LeWeb: 4 social-mobile trends to bank your money on in 2012

Carlos Espinal is partner at Seedcamp, a European micro seed fund for internet technology companies.

Despite any clouds looming over the macro-economic climate, Europe’s startups and investors (and increasingly those from further afield) gather together once a year to attend the LeWeb conference in Paris.

Part of what makes LeWeb so great is the multitude of events that occur on the periphery of the actual conference. With our very own Seedcamp event taking place a few days earlier, Le Camping’s social event at the Paris Stock Exchange, Startup Bus having a get together, and the many private dinners held by companies, tech industry celebs, and investors alike, there is no shortage of opportunities to meet new and influential people as well as up and coming tech startups.

If anything, it is this peripheral networking during LeWeb ‘week’ that makes it increasingly one of the most influential conferences globally. And it is oftentimes the casual conversations that occur on the tails of a great talk between the attendees that the new ideas will take hold for the next year.

I had the chance to catch up with a few friends who attended — Chipper Boulas (Boulas Ventures), Mike Sigal (Guidewire Group), Francois Tison (360 Capital), Scott Sage (DFJ Esprit), Maximilian Claussen (Earlybird), and Marek Kapturkiewicz (Innovation Nest) — to discuss what the future may bring in terms of ideas born out of discussions and talks at LeWeb. These are the four clearest social/mobile trends we expect to see over the next year:

1. Innovation linked to smartphone proliferation – With the ongoing penetration of mobile devices into emerging economies, particularly smartphones, more innovative mobile services will spawn, particularly regarding payments and hyper local targeting.

2. Increased use of groups for social filtering — People are increasingly pressed for time and saturated with social media (George Colony, CEO of Forrester, mentioned that people’s use of social media is only second, in terms of time spent, to childcare, implying we are in a social bubble and people are reaching a saturation point in the use of their time). As a result, companies, content creators and advertisers will struggle to make relevant connections with individuals. However, the rise of social filtering based on the awareness of an individual’s affinity groups while traversing the web (for example, something like Google+ circles) may solve the relevancy and targeting issues associated with trying to connect with an individual without knowledge of the social contexts in which the individual operates.

3. Continued evolution of micro location and hyperlocal applications – While in the past micro location (being able to track a person’s location to a high degree of accuracy whether indoors or out) has been difficult to do, Google’s location head, Marisa Meyer, spoke about how the indoor mapping features of Google Maps for Mobile 6.0 will help spawn greater use of hyperlocal apps and services to provide advertising opportunities for brands and agencies but also more relevant search results for users.

The greater use of APIs such as those from Google and Foursquare will also continue to generate more locally aware applications.

4. Financial technology innovation will speed up — Financial technologies will see wider adoption and democratization. With service providers such as the Currency Cloud, present at LeWeb, and other disruptive players such as Transferwise (Seedcamp Company) and Kantox making inroads into how companies deal with foreign-exchange risk and costs. Additionally, how consumers interface with their financial institutions via their mobile will continue to evolve.

It will be interesting to look back on this list at next year’s LeWeb to see how far and how fast these technologies have moved and to speculate on a new batch of emerging trends over the conference’s great (and free) Nespresso.

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