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Web Summit, Lisbon 2018: 5 Takeaways

November 30th, 2018  •  3 minute read

Bigger and better than ever, the Web Summit in Lisbon was attended by 69,000 participants this year. With more stands, more stages, a more international presence, and better coffee, the event is going from strength to strength and is now a staple in startups’ diaries across the globe.

After four days beneath the steel roof of the Altice Arena representing Future Kings, listening to talks and meeting with business people to discuss our Minimum Viable Brand programme, I have five clear takeaways from the event:

1. Networking nets the work.

Although the Web Summit is an amass of stages and speeches, most of which are kept to a short 20 minutes, the real selling point of the event is the networking opportunities. Their app, company stalls and international appeal has made this a boiling pot of creative minds. You’ll certainly hear some interesting insights on each stage, but if you’re looking for the nitty gritty, arrange meetings to get exposure for your business and meet potential partners. However, it’s worth noting that arranging meetings with alpha and beta startups can be difficult unless you’re an investor.

2. AI is here.

AI essentially took over the Web Summit this year. Artificial intelligence — building machines that learn and reason — seems to be more than just a flavour of the month. It was in everything from healthtech to cyber security. Investors aren’t just sniffing around this sector anymore, they’re backing it with cold hard cash, and startups with new ways to apply this technology are likely to continue popping up across the globe.

3. Women mean business.

“The more diverse your workforce, the better chance your tech will be more relevant.” (SAP on Startup University stage)

With an estimated 43% of attendees being women this year, the Lisbon Web Summit was more diverse than ever. On a personal note, having invested in a brilliant female founder myself, it was great to hear from such formidable founders about the obvious positive impact women have on the tech industry.

4. Shared values for shared success.

“It helps to have a third party in the room who isn’t emotionally involved as it keeps the founders focussed.” (Alexis Ohanian on Startup University stage)

One of the best talks I went to was about founder partnerships and the importance of shared values. The reason why the startup exists isn’t always talked about by founders and this can muddy the water of the brand. It reminded me of Simon Sinek’s ‘start with why’ argument, and is something that we as a branding agency harp on about all the time, so it was great to see it talked about on such a large platform. If you’re talking over each other or not talking at all, you need to get a third party involved. Branding agencies help start conversations about what the company is and why it exists so the startup’s message to the market is crystal clear and effective.

5. Crushing it can crush you.

“This idea that unless you are suffering, grinding, working every hour of every day, you’re not working hard enough … this is one of the most toxic, dangerous things in tech right now.” (Alexis Ohanian on Centre stage)

One of the more insightful speeches of the event came from Alexis Ohanian who talked very openly about the impact of the toxic ‘hustling’ culture in tech. Prioritising work above everything else will just make you miserable. This, of course, doesn’t come out of nowhere, nor is Ohanian a whistleblower — the macho culture in tech is well documented, with Amazon’s own CEO Jeff Bezos telling his employees to put customers above lunch breaks and stop focussing on their own needs. It was refreshing to hear that contradicted, and hopefully, many of the founders in the audience will reassess their company culture’s going forward.

And it is on that note, keeping my own wellbeing front of mind, that I will leave you and escape to watch the football down the pub.