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LeWeb founder: Digital hippies creating a new global economy

By Irene Chapple, CNN
January 26, 2013 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LeWeb founder Loic Le Meur is looking to "digital hippies" as a potential theme for his next conference
  • Le Meur is seeing a trend of entrepreneurs who reject money, fame and power
  • Digital hippies are not the only trend on his radar. The return of hardware is another
  • Le Meur is a Davos veteran and says the forum is valuable for building relationships

Davos, Switzerland (CNN) -- LeWeb founder Loic Le Meur is looking to "digital hippies" as a potential theme for his next conference.

The French entrepreneur runs the biggest tech gathering in Europe and he's cautious to firm up a tagline too early.

But when CNN caught up with him at the World Economic Forum in Davos, which he has attended for 11 years, he revealed what's on his mind.

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Le Meur is seeing a trend of entrepreneurs who reject money, fame and power -- they just want to be happy. They are digital hippies.

Taking inspiration from events such as Nevada's art and music festival "Burning Man," which he attended for the first time in 2012, Le Meur told CNN digital hippies are: "Vegan, they don't drink alcohol, they want to know where their food comes from, they are trying to go slow when we are going fast."

He referenced Apple's Steve Jobs and Virgin's Richard Branson as examples of those who began business as digital hippies. Digital hippies are creating a sharing economy -- one that includes creations like Wikipedia, Airbnb and Lyft -- without a focus on exchanging cash.

At Burning Man, Le Meur "took $500 and came back with $500." The event, packed full of successful entrepreneurs, changed how he saw the world, Le Meur said. "It is a little crazy."

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Le Meur said the theme may be a bit risky, and he's a "little scared" it will scare his sponsors. Although "Peace, Tech and Love" seems a good tag, he added.

Digital hippies are not the only trend on his radar. The return of hardware is another.

In the world of apps, hardware can be unattractive for investors. But Le Meur points to the ability of hardware creations to entirely disrupt supply chains.

"We build websites, then apps, and now we are back to hardware," Le Meur said.

3-D printing, for example, could revolutionize the way we buy products. "You need a knife and fork? You can print it. A glass? You can print it."

Davos, a gathering of the world's elite, could not be further from the idea of digital hippies, but it serves an important role, Le Meur says.

"It is the only place you can meet so many stakeholders. Instead of reading or watching the news you are in the news," he says.

"I take out of it a lot of innovation, a lot of ideas, that you can use. But I don't come here with a specific goal. I come here very curious and try to learn."

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