Web Summit: Lisbon
Pena Palace: Sintra, Portugal.
Lisbon. The city of light. The city of hills. A truly magical place that made a beautiful lifelong impression on me.
I was lucky enough to have received a media pass to attend the giant technology conference, the Web Summit, in early November. Normally held in Dublin, the Summit was moved to Lisbon for the first time in 2016. 50,000 people attended the summit. Yes, 50,000!
I have a lot of information to still digest and write about for future posts, but here is a short blurb on my initial takeaways.
Favorite aspects of the conference:
Startups: Listening to startups pitch their ideas either on stage or at their booths showed me how many cool ideas are out there and that people are thinking smartly how to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. The founders I met with are passionate, articulate, and often disruptive. The Danish educational robot company Kubo Robot who competed against 200 other startups won the Pitch Competition this year.
Evening events like pub crawls and meetups were a great way to meet innovative designers, developers, and startup founders from around the world. I met folks from so many cool companies including the AI translation company Unbabel, Railslove, and the Hack Institute.
Location: Lisbon, need I say more? I am in love with the city and would move there in a heartbeat.
Tracks. There were several tracks from music, future societies, fintech and marketing making it “option” rich having a little something for everyone.
Women in tech: They made a big effort to recruit a substantial number of female attendees. I believe almost half of the attendees were women, though there were many events and talks I attended that didn’t feel that way. They gave over 10,000 free tickets to women, which is quite impressive!
Lisbon received international attention as the next startup city. Many Lisbon dwellers expressed concern at the lack of employment opportunities. This new attention on the startup scene gave them a bit of hope that things could really start to change which is exciting. The city has a vibrant community of co-working spaces and definitely can serve as magnet for entrepreneurs, investors, and the creative community as a whole.
I had the most amazing Airbnb hostess. She greeted me at the apartment and spent over 30 minutes showing me around and telling me about her "secret" places in the city. She filled the fridge with drinks, yogurt, and cheese and the bowls with fresh bread from the most divine bakery and fresh fruit. She also walked me up and down the neighborhood to help me find a place for dinner and waited until I was actually seated at the bar. Isabelle, you were the perfect hostess!
Beautiful facade, Lisbon
Least favorite aspects of the conference:
The allocation of only 20 minutes for talks is not enough for panelists/speakers to really dive deep.
These talks lacked interaction between attendees and speakers. There was no time allocated for questions/answers which I believe could have added a great dimension to these talks.
50,000 attendees felt too big. If you have that many folks in attendance, make sure the Web Summit App can keep up with the number of people using it. I heard a rumor they want to increase the number to 80,000 people next year. There were also not enough chairs for the amount of people. I spent 90% of my time at the conference on my feet.
Having so many track options made it hard for me to decide which ones to attend. I was often left torn between several and always felt the grass was greener on the other side!
I attended their U.S version, the Collision Conference, in New Orleans earlier this year and found it to be a bit more manageable and easier to network with folks due to the “less hectic” nature of the conference. However, if I can make it happen, I will definitely be back in Lisbon in 2017!