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This article was published on December 11, 2008

Middle aged digital pioneer Lévy advices youngsters

Middle aged digital pioneer Lévy advices youngsters
Ernst-Jan Pfauth
Story by

Ernst-Jan Pfauth

Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He a Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He also served as The Next Web’s blog’s first blogger and Editor in Chief, back in 2008. At De Correspondent, Ernst-Jan serves as publisher, fostering the expansion of the platform.

Maurice Lévy is a successful and extremely well-connected French marketing mogul. He’s the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Publicis Groupe, one of the world’s four leading communications organizations. When Lévy reached the top, he transformed the company into a global powerhouse of top creative advertising and marketing agencies and is today a pioneer in digital and online communications.

Due to some negative experiences, e.g. with Didier Lombard, Chairman and CEO of Orange, I learned to block out middle aged men with a French accent during Le Web ’08. Yet somehow the interesting words spilled through.

Loic le Meur interviewed him on stage about the same themes as he interviewed others: advice for young entrepreneurs, Europe versus the US, and – of course – the recession.

Don’t rush, build a solid base

Let’s focus on the advice for young lads. Lévy said he’s impressed by young people starting their own operation with very little backup and just the belief that they’re idea is important. The first thing a starting entrepreneur should keep in mind, Lévy noted, is that he should build a solid base. “Don’t rush. Do one thing, do it well, and own it. Then go to the next level.”

Americans are privileged

Lévy: “Be a recognized leader. Don’t try to do many things and go to many countries to soon. Build a solid base first, then move on.” According to him, launching a product in the US market compares to launching a product in all European markets – minus the language and tax problems. Entrepreneurs who are born in the US are thus privileged, hence the fact that most web heavyweights are American.

“We should not be afraid of those giants”, Lévy assured the audience. “It’s great that they’re here, because they build the way for us by creating relationships with advertisers. They make the path easier so we shouldn’t be afraid to work or compete with them.”

Great talent in Europe

The possibilities are more scarce in Europe, but they do exist. When Lévy started with the online activities of Publicis Groupe in France it was a rather small operation. Yet in a few years Publicis Groupe turned it into a billion dollar division. “It wouldn’t have made a huge difference if we had done it in Germany, the UK or Poland. We have great talent in Europe that can develop good software.”

Lévy turned out to be surprisingly web savvy, combined with his incredible resume, I found his twenty minutes on stage really inspiring.

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