This blog comes from the moderate temperature, occasionally sunny (in November) city of Lisbon, having just finished an intense 3-day conference – The Web Summit.
What a week!
Having seen talks from the likes of entrepreneur and internet personality, Gary Vaynerchuck, CTO of Coca Cola, Alan Boehme, and even the Prime Minister of Portugal, it has been a whirlwind experience. The Web Summit is a tech conference focused on delivering high level talks from industry leaders and enabling start-ups to pitch, promote and engage with the tech elite.
Featuring some 53,000 delegates, there were a lot to take in. Below I’m going to outline my key observations and takeaways.
The first thing that this years’ Web Summit really reinforced for me was how much tech plays a part in EVERY company. Coca Cola was a good example of this. As a lifestyle brand they put A LOT of energy into new tech trends and opportunities in order to stay current with the advertising and their target markets. Other examples include musician Tinie Tempah who discussed wanting nothing more than access to analytics on listening trends and the behaviour of his listeners and fans.
Another takeaway is my perception of Facebook – after this week I’ve got a little bit more respect for them. While ever popular, Facebook gets a fair bit of stick – Just this week they have been under scrutiny for their curation of the news and the “Echo chamber” of social media. As Facebook moves towards becoming a marketplace and news site, it has a lot to figure out in terms of it’s approach. However, they still are involved with a number of other projects, and during the Summit I heard CTO Mike Schroepfer talk about some of these. To name a few, drones that can fly for 3 months at a time and provide WiFi, the advancements of AI and it’s ability to caption photos on Facebook with increasing accuracy. The project that grabbed the most attention (for me and the large crowd) was the use of VR for rehabilitation. Their specific example was helping people with spinal injuries to walk and go through therapy.
Finally, Gary Vaynerchuk knows how to energise an audience. Prior to seeing his talk, I didn’t know too much about him, asides from having a bit of a cult following and being fairly outspoken. I was not disappointed. As soon as he was on stage the crowd erupted. people were on their feet and the you could feel a buzz in the room. On stage he was very energectic and made for a really enjoyable talk. What I liked most of all was his straight talking approach. His messages included: “Be open minded”, “Don’t build barriers”, “Try new things” and lastly “Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing, focus on what you’re doing”.
It was as great week, and with the US election happening half way through it made for some interesting debate. It was a powerful moment seeing Dave McClure from 500 Startups give an impassioned speech about his feelings and opinions as a result of the election. Free speech was a recurring theme of the week, and it was great to see so many influential people promoting it throughout the tech industry.
For those who are interested, you can see all the talks on their facebook page.