Soaking up Kinnernet Europe

Also wine, cheese, bread, new friends, and digital art in Avallon, France

My head is still spinning from this weekend, still absorbing, still processing, and I expect I will be on this high, a welcomed, elevated mindset for a long while.

It was a reunion, a deepening of friendships, and the start of many more.

One month ago, I received an invitation to Kinnernet Europe*, an unconference in Avallon, France hosted at the home of French financier and investor Marc Goldberg.

This past weekend, I found myself relaxing in his backyard garden, soaking up the sun and writing these words. Before opening my notebook, I had just hung out with two Dutch game designers and an English academic when we came across the idea for FUNergy — a platform for connecting the world’s human beings through their energy, and turning their vibrations into useful power.

FUNergy founder Gabe Mac; Photo by Philippe Tarbouriech

We were standing next to a 12th Century church when we thought of the prototype — a pad that would sit on top of a mattress and absorb the energy of kids jumping on the bed or adults making love. How would we measure this energy?

BPM: Bangs Per Minute, of course.

We’ve already seen this kind of energy capture on bikes, so why not take this idea and have the world’s playgrounds one day replace our nuclear power plants?

Earlier that morning, I woke up early to teach a yoga and meditation class with Marc. It was a relaxing respite from a weekend of wine, cheese, big ideas, and trying to understand both French and Israeli accents on a few hours sleep.

Marc’s Garden

So how did we get here? After a short flight from London, Danny Seal, Anthony Beilin and I had dinner in Paris with Stephanie Hospital before driving three hours south to Avallon, a small town in Burgundy where there are no mists. I shared a hotel room with my friend Betsy Fore, who makes connected Fitbit like devices for dogs at her company Wondermento.

On our first night in Avallon, we enjoyed a five-course dinner at an old Tannière just outside of town. The raw cubed trout was the best trout I’ve ever had, and I am a bit of a trout snob. There were two desserts but I only saw one because by the time the second one came around I was staring up at the stars with new friends, learning about planets, gases, stars, and 3D animation.

The old tannery just outside of town

The next morning, we woke up early and a large group of us went kayaking on a lazy French river, passing underneath 16th century bridges, and dragging our boats over rocky shallow streams. A big thank you to our new friend Amy ter Haar for organizing the trip.

After kayaking, Betsy and I were exhausted and skipped a few of the day’s activities to catch up on email and eat a long lunch in the sun. When we didn’t think we had any room left in our bellies, we managed to make it just in time for the Chablis and French cheese tasting.


After a few glasses of wine and gooey bits of cheese, we went for a wander in the museum where the unconference was hosted. We met two beautifully eccentric French artists who wrote us poetry and took our photos.

© GŽraldine Aresteanu
© GŽraldine Aresteanu

Before dinner, we caught up with David Rowan, Editor of Wired UK and Liz Bacelar, whose company Decoded Fashion was recently acquired. While many of the guests scooted off to the town hall, Betsy and I found ourselves back in Marc’s garden.

Sometimes at an unconference, the best participation you can give is a one-on-one with a new friend.
Photo by CBM

The next day David led one of my favorite sessions at Kinnernet, “How to find true friends (and love) in 45 minutes.” He asked us to form groups of two and gave us each 36 questions to answer together. The questions start off easy enough like:

“If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?”

and end in tougher ones like:

While on a trip to another city, your spouse (or lover) meets and spends a night w/ an exciting stranger. Given they will never meet again, and you will not otherwise learn of the incident, would you want your partner to tell you about it?

They are designed to bring you and your partner closer to together. I answered them with Liz, a woman whom I had only known formally and who I now have a deep, life-long appreciation for. The questions and David’s story on Arthur Aron can be found on Wired.

On our last night in Avallon, about 50 of us prepared for the “Cooking Madness”. We hauled vegetables, fruits, and cheeses back to Marc’s home from the local farmer’s market. We grabbed knives and cutting boards and posted up in his garden, slicing vegetables into salads and marinating mushrooms into sauces. From Asian beef to cheese fondue and spicy Israeli dishes, we ate our fill at the communal feast and drank copious amounts of wine to wash it all down.

Photo by Philippe Tarbouriech

The last night, the extravaganza, was a 70s themed Love Revolution party and unsurprisingly, my favorite night of the weekend.

Philippe Tarbouriech

As the sun set, a group of us wandered into Marc’s downstairs garden and spent hours lounging on chairs, listening to music, and enjoying the digital art and curation of Israeli artist Eyal Gever. We shared wine, smokes, and saw music and software come to life through holographic images, 3D animation, and sculptures. Eyal is a magician, a wizard, and a lion.

Somewhere in between the bottles of red wine, champagne, and dancing, the evening sky decided to pull an Irish goodbye.

We watched the sunrise as the sky turned into a deep, powdery blue that warmed the hills of Avallon. Conversation, as it tends to do at this hour, flowed from love to life, and right back to love again.

I’ll never forget the words exchanged, the sunshine soaked, the food we ate, and the wine we drank at Kinnernet. It was a truly marvelous time. Thank you to all who hosted and participated. ❤

*Started by Israeli entrepreneur and investor Yossi Vardi, Kinnernet began in Israel in 2003 and has since expanded into Europe and the U.S.