Web Summit reaches the peak of event effectiveness – others take note!

Written by on November 11, 2016 in Features with 0 Comments

web-summit-8I’ve just been to the first event, in probably 20 years, where nobody droned on about network speeds, processes, regulators, 5G, and most tiresome and boring of all – mobile devices. It was simply called the Web Summit, a name that leaves the door wide open to anything and anyone internet or digitally related.

It moved this year from its birthplace in Dublin to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal and a country trying really hard to become the Silicon Valley of Europe. That may be a long way off but the Web Summit delivered something that no other conference I have been to has been able to match. (And the weather was a bit warmer and drier than November in Ireland!)

Let me explain. The organisers advertised the fact that they were not conference people or event organisers by trade, yet they managed to put on something that attracted 53,056 people to be exact (although I am convinced there were more) from 166 countries to a city and venue (the MEO Arena and FIL) not previously renowned for holding events of this type or magnitude.

But there was none of the glitz and glamour of an MWC or CeBIT. No massive corporate stands with flashing lights and busty booth babes, no private conference rooms by invitation only, and best of all, no big swinging dicks with their personal entourages and cling-ons. I use that language on purpose because that’s how people at this event spoke – on stage and on the floor – no pretence, minimal political correctness, no holds barred, no marketing spiels, no airs and graces and, strangely, very few egos.

People and start-ups were there because they wanted to be there, not because they had to be ‘seen’ to be there. They were there to inform, to be informed, to speak and to listen and, above all, to share what they had to offer on everything from apps to investments.

There were 1,490 start-ups present of which 135 were part of START, the track reserved for the most promising start-ups. 270 joined BETA, the growth-stage track, while 1,080 joined ALPHA, the early-stage track.

img_0955Of these, 968 took part in something called the Mentor Hours scheme, where high-level attendees like speakers and partners meet with start-ups for 15 minutes for a bit of one-on-one advice and knowledge sharing. 278 mentors were involved. Who else does that?

There were pre-scheduled, one-to-one meetings in a special meeting zone managed by a team of hosts that gave a chance for startups to make valuable connections with Web Summit investors. Major funds like Sherpa Capital, Greylock Partners, NEA, KPCB, Seedcamp and 500 Startups all took part.

MWC take note – the 2,000 odd media people there were actually fed hot food! There were free coffee machines throughout the venue and hot tea was dispensed freely by people walking around with backpacks and water fountains, complete with cups, everywhere!

Even eating was a great experience with probably 30 or more street vendors and food vans offering almost every conceivable food type from around the world.

But the piece-de-resistance had to be the main event in the big arena. I’m not sure how many people it held but I would hazard a guess that it would hold at least 10,000 seated. The sessions ran all day, mainly panels with great moderators and guests, many I’d never heard of. Bang, bang, bang – one after the other with people flowing in an out constantly to catch what they thought was of interest.

The massive stage was backed by translucent water tanks in cages that changed colour with every new session and big screens with professional TV coverage including a massive boom that honed in on the speakers. And you could hear every word wherever you sat.

Those sessions were supplemented by smaller focussed sessions in theatres set up around each hall that seemed to be constantly packed with people. If you ever wondered what happens to all that cork Portugal produces you would have seen massive cork blocks that formed a sound-proofing wall around each of these areas. Simply brilliant.

web-summit-7Oh, and when you visit each of the start-up zones you find rows of simple stands with a sign (they are all the same shape and size and are colour-coordinated so you know where you are) that says in one sentence exactly what they do. It makes it really easy to hone in on the subjects that interest you, and even those that don’t. Nobody hounds you to talk but you can’t help yourself from stopping for a chat when you see something new or different. There is even a dedicated area, soapbox-like, where pitches can be made

I could go on on and on. If you have anything to do with the digital world, apps, payments, technology investments, fintech or any internet business in general you simply must go there. This year the ‘house full’ sign went up weeks before the event was held so I suggest you get in early, very early.

PS I was not paid, sponsored or coerced in any way to write this about the Web Summit – I honestly loved it! If there was only one event I could go to each year this would be the one.

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About the Author

About the Author: Tony is a freelance writer, regular speaker, MC and chairman for the telecoms and digital services industries worldwide. He has founded and managed software and services companies, acts a market strategist and is now Editor of DisruptiveViews. In June 2011, Tony was recognized as one of the 25 most influential people in telecom software worldwide. .


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