Lisbon. The capital of Portugal. Famous for its Fado music, ornate and colourful buildings, bustling nightlife and yummy custard tarts (known as Pastel de Nata).
Lisbon is also home to the world’s largest tech conference (according to the Financial Times). In November, around 43,000 people including tech experts, start-ups, media, cultural icons, investors and plenty of the tech industry’s biggest players including Microsoft, Facebook (Meta), and Apple, descended on the city to attend Web Summit.
We were fortunate enough to be among them.
Scale, speakers (and sneakers)
The first thing to note is the sheer scale of this event. It’s massive, featuring an arena, five pavilions and so many food stalls you are spoilt for choice. (And yes, trainers are essential footwear for an event of this magnitude.)
With 23 onstage tracks covering every slice of the tech industry from healthtech to SaaS and deep tech to robots, there were plenty of topics to choose from to keep us busy over the three days. All in all, some 700 speakers took to the stage over the course of the event.
We heard from Craig Federighi, SVP, Software Engineering, Apple, who spoke about the perils of sideloading and why enforcing it is so dangerous to people’s security.
Brad Smith, President, Microsoft, explained why ‘carbon accounting’ is necessary and that ‘carbon math’ doesn’t go far enough.
As you might expect, the World Wide Web was one of several recurring themes at Web Summit. We heard about how the web is moving forward, Web 3.0, and the metaverse. Tim Berners-Lee spoke about the critical failure of the web as it stands today – how it handles data (and he apologised for it!) Tim’s working on a solution (or specification, rather) called Solid, which lets people store their data securely in decentralised pods, so users can control access to their data and decide what to share and with whom.
The metaverse, unsurprisingly was one of the hottest talking points at the event, especially because Facebook (Meta) and Microsoft both recently staked their claims on it. We had so many questions, including the basics like ‘what exactly is it?’ Well, Web Summit had the answers, and yes, it does certainly seem like we will all be living, working, playing, shopping and travelling in a digital world in the not-too-distant future. It might sound like virtual insanity but trust us, it’s going to become a reality and will be a core part of our lives.
Purpose and sustainability was high on the agenda, which made total sense while COP 26 was simultaneously taking place in Glasgow. Purpose is critical to the success of so many tech companies today. Various speakers talked why having a strong sense of purpose and emotional reason to exist is crucial in the tech space. But more than that, having a sense of purpose should be an obsession that companies should live and breathe (well, it certainly worked for Patagonia, which, although not a tech brand, is revered by techies all over the world).
The fourth theme we wanted to shine a spotlight on is cryptocurrency. Although crypto isn’t new, the recent rise (hitting an all-time high on 5 November), and more recently fall in the price of Bitcoin has reignited the crypto convo. Despite crypto’s price volatility, its proponents are super confident in its future. Key takeaway – the potential benefits of blockchain for business and society should not be under-estimated.
It’s easy to see why brands would want to partner with Web Summit. Yes, of course they can generate brand awareness, network with peers, position themselves as thought leaders, and generate leads, but there were also almost 2,000 media representatives there to showcase your brand to.
Lisbon, it was a blast. Thank you and see you next year, Web Summit!
In the meantime, keep an eye on the Fox Agency social feeds as we head to a whole host of the other biggest tech events in the world! From CES to SXSW, join us on our travels as we immerse ourselves in tech. And if you want in on the action, head over to our careers page.