I have recently been at Web Summit Conference in Lisbon (November 7 to 9) and the first word I could think of when I sat down to write this post was: “huge”.
Over 50,000 participants made it the largest web related event I have ever attended to (and one of the biggest I joined in all fields, if you exclude a couple of concerts & sporting events!).
But if you are thinking of it as a regular conference (like I did when I decided to attend) you would be mistaken. Given the numbers it was almost impossible to really follow any speaker and there were always at least 10 of them speaking simultaneously at all times somewhere in the 3 pavilions or central stage.
The topics did not help. They were so far from each other and from so different personalities (in politics, sports, startups, etc.) that the main question soon became: why should I follow this instead of this other?
Unfortunately I only had a day and I was literally overwhelmed by the amount of content on offer that I decided not to follow anything at all and just concentrate on the startups exposing in the pavilions.
That said, if you think that I regretted being there, you would be mistaken again.
There were, literally, thousands of small presentation desks in the 3 huge pavilions of the expo area with start-uppers in fin-tech sector (one of the most represented), health, SaaS (on line services), personal care, travel/tourism, etc. It was like a tour to a temporary Silicon Valley transplanted in Europe.
It was really interesting (and sometimes funny) looking at the variegated, picturesque and colored ways all these aspiring entrepreneurs presented their projects. Here you can find a selection of the more representative ones: https://websummit.net/featured-startups
I noticed a consumer market oriented trend. Very few projects were targeted to other companies & professionals. I suppose this is quite normal in so a big event (and the larger the target is, the easier to find a venture funding).
I joined a couple of startup competitions with my own tool to monitor AdWords campaigns. This was a sample output (click on the image to view the video in Facebook):
The interest for the event was so high among web professionals that, as you can see, this very basic video had more than 1.000 impressions and around 100 reactions and several friends and colleagues of mine realized I was starting-up something for the first time.
If you have a startup, or thinking of it or even think you could one day have one, you simply have to be there. You will understand and will have a glance on the growing European venture funding sector (more than 1,000 venture capital operators from all over the world were registered at the event https://websummit.net/investors).
Everything was excellently organized to have startups to meet their potential investors. From spaces layout to the classification of startups, or the different event’s badges quoting the kind of subscription in different colors (alpha/beta start-uppers, investors, media, etc.) and the event’s APP enabling you to communicate to every other participant. I was even able to collect a couple of interested potential backers contacting them directly via the APP.
Moreover Lisbon is a perfect location for it. Beautiful, cheap, safe, relaxed and well equipped to receive so a big invasion of crazy “web people”, even during night parties.
So, chapeau to the organizers. It was definitely an experience worth it and I would suggest to everyone playing in the startup field to join it, at least once, if not done yet.