Etre reaches a 20 year milestone

The Etre conference will be 20 years ago this October and it’s a tribute to the very well connected Alex Vieux that it’s reached that landmark.

The conference will be held from October 6 to October 9 in Paris, France, and the organisers, Red Herring Events, are anticipating that 600 industry leaders from over 40 countries will tip up.

I haven’t been to all the Etre conferences but I was there for the first and attended many of them. I’ll be going to the 20th one, for sure. Alex Vieux (pictured) has done pretty well to keep the show on the road for two decades.

The conference has given me many many scoops. The most noteworthy was when Eckhard Pfeiffer, then CEO of Compaq, just turned straight round to his Intel German compatriot and accused the chip giant of competing against its customers with the Intel Inside programme.

There are many other tales from Etre which should not go untold.

At a very posh hotel in Barcelona, year two or three, one Philippe Kahn of Borland was, like the rest of us, waiting for Alex Vieux’s buses to take us to a beautiful venue for dinner. Alex does beautiful venues. Philippe had forgotten to button his fly as he sat on an octagonal table in the lobby. I had this terrifying thought rush through my fevered brain: “I have a camera, can I take a picture of Philippe’s groin and make a story out of that?” I decided not to. Philippe is a big guy.

The first Etre was held in a Club Med near Sophie Antipolis, made famous by JG Ballard in his Cocaine Nights. This was the strangest Club Med village you could ever imagine. Not by he sea, this one came equipped with fake Cicada noises piped through loudspeakers, and a bevy of databases Guptas, Ken Olsen, and a heap of other famous CEOs too.

In the early days, Philippe Kahn and Bill Gates vied with each other to put on the most lavish sponsored Etre parties and obviously that was great for the delegates.

At one of the early conferences, Lee Reiswig of IBM was pushing OS/2 as a better Windows than Windows. All you had to do was hang around the bar and you’d pick up all kinds of gossip and stories that never made it through the official channels.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates has been a regular visitor to numerous Etres over the years – the last time I saw him there he was boasting that Vista had cost more to put together than the first Man on the Moon mission.

I will draw a veil over an Etre which saw me and a number of senior CEOs partying it away in Madrid until the small hours – and will obviously not recount the story of AMD’s Jerry Sanders III and the yacht he and his friends resorted to just off the South of France.

This year speakers at Etre will be SAP’s Leo Apotheker, Eric Benhamou, Google’s Wesley Chan, Microsoft’s Jean-Philippe Courtois, Kevin Hell from Divx, Irwin Jacobs of Qualcomm, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo from Nokia and a number of other luminaries too including Alcatel-Lucent’s Ben Verwaayen and Craig Walker from Google.

More details of the conference can be found here. As well as Etre, the Red Herring Events guys are holding their Asia Conference on November 4-5th, giving an opportunity for startups to chinwag with venture capitalists. The VCs have always been a feature of the Etre conference.