We made our annual sojourn to Dublin…er, make that Lisbon to check in on our favorite tech conference that side of the Atlantic (sorry Mobile World Congress, you are too corporate).

Top 6 Observations from the 2016 Web Summit…

  1. At 53,056 attendees (who keeps such precise statistics?), Paddy and the Web Summit team have outdone themselves. No seriously, they have outdone themselves. The move from Dublin was not only prescient, it was required. The question now is if Lisbon is big enough to handle this burgeoning event. Simple math, when the Opening Ceremony venue seats 20,000, you really should not invite all 53,056 to join you! All bursting-at-the-seams commentary aside, Lisbon was terrific and we chalk the experience up to first-year-in-new-venue growing pains.img_0348
  2. The conference reported that representatives from 167 countries were in attendance. We believe them. We know of no other event with such international and multinational appeal. Lest one think Web Summit’s demographics are Euro-centric, we made new friends from Venezuela (entrepreneurship is mostly not allowed), Moscow, Senegal, Hong Kong, and Japan in addition to all 27 members of the EU (we took the Brexiters out).
  3. Over-rotation on US election? It was only natural that there would be a fixation on the events of November 8th given it fell squarely in the middle of the show. We were impressed by the degree of intellectual depth of the election-related panel discussions and the genuine concern. Message to our American colleagues…people around the globe care deeply about events in the US, even if we often don’t care about what happens internationally.
  4. Content, content, content. We love Web Summit for the sheer magnitude of the content, the quality of the speakers and the fact that sessions are restricted to 20 to 30 minutes. While the discussion frequently does not follow the panel title, we don’t mind. Folks get to their point fast and whether or not you agree with their positions, the content is topical and refreshing.
  5. New company formation on continental Europe remains simultaneously challenged yet robust. We attended a financing panel that was 100% populated by Silicon Valley types and the message was “if you want to raise money and build a real company, your only choice is to move to the Valley.” Whether this is true or not, it felt condescending and not particularly constructive. We found a credible list of 16 European Unicorns and we bet that number increases. Keep doing your thing Europe!
  6. Facebook, Facebook, Facebook. The Palo Alto based company took center stage by storm and did not disappoint. From the CTO’s vision to connect all of humankind to the internet to the CSO’s commitment to do so safely (while the internet remains mostly unsafe), Facebook proves to be a company with global ambitions and feels to us like it might just be getting started.