• Dafne Sartorio

Websummit: Was it worth it? My key takeaways from the biggest tech event in the world

As some of you might know, this week, I had the opportunity to fly to Portugal and take part into websummit, a 3-day tech event that gathers thousands of people from all over the world in Lisbon.

Websummit is a very controversial event: some claim that it’s the best event for tech, while others claim that it is overrated due to many reasons such as long lines, too many people and little focus on topics.

Since I had the opportunity to check it out for myself, I decided to share with you not only my opinion on it, but also the key insights I got from the event. Enjoy :)

First of all — What is websummit ?

Web Summit is an annual technology conference, and it has been described as the most important tech event in the world . The conference’s topics center on emerging trends, venture capitalism, and there are many speakers from different parts of the world (some examples are Elon Musk, Al Gore, Akon, etc).

Some numbers behind the event:

70.000 participants

1.200 speakers

11.000 CEOs

Why did I go there?

Currently, I work as an Innovation consultant at ING (a big bank in Belgium and The Netherlands). My job is to partner with external companies in order to solve business challenges. Therefore, I was at Websummit not only to stay updated on trends but also to find potential partners that can help ING to become more innovative.

My key insights

I took part in more than 15 workshops and keynotes (so overwhelming!), and here are my key insights:

Customer Experience & Technology: Do they always walk hand in hand?

Customer experience was mentioned many times as the reason why we should be innovating. There were quite good learning opportunities focused on the retail segment — very insightful talk from Sam’s Club CEO on how they’re driving better CX and also employee experience through technology. You can check the raw notes here.

Some good quotes about that were the following:

“It’s not only digital, it’s about providing a consistent experience to all our customers”. CEO of Akibank

“It’s not just about tech. Tech is an enabler. What you have to focus on is the product and what you offer to the customer in the first place” CEO of Chubb

Also an interesting point from the CEO of Chubb. Apart from mentioning how IoT was the future of risk prevention, he claims that sometimes, you should not digitize some parts of your journey. “Sometimes you need empathy. Ex: natural disaster, your roof fell apart — you need a human touch.”

2. Technology for the better

The positive impacts of technology on the environment, longevity, life quality, etc, were a trending topic during the conference. The SDGs were mentioned many times, and there were different exhibitors with strong messages about it. It makes me wonder about a potential hidden agenda behind it, as there is also an economical opportunity behind this. The most obvious one was the 5G Keynote from Verizon — it was quite obvious how much they need to break the skepticism of the population to turn 5G into reality, and it seemed like they were using the potential good impact on climate change and longevity as a selling point for that. Good topic to have a discussion on, as there are many different opinions around the table.

3. Digital inclusion is still a challenge

Even though we’re evolving in making access to technology easier for the population, it seems like we still didn’t crack the code in terms of generating massive impact out of it. For example, the huge population of “unbanked” continues to be underserved, and the talks/keynotes around it in the conference were not useful in that sense. It also seems like we lack real solutions to bring customers to digital if they are not digital natives or are in underdeveloped areas — apart from government policy.

4. The future is built by strong collaborations

Be that by startups and corporates, or alliances between universities, governments, and companies, the power of collaborations were very much visible throughout the conference. Here are some examples and interesting quotes around it:

London white city Innovation Campus: Imperial college In London is bringing together scientific researchers, corporate partners, entrepreneurs and the local community to co-exist and co-create on an unprecedented scale and to turn cutting edge scientific research to action. Very similar to what ING is doing in Amsterdam, by the way. About Libra (Global cryptocurrency built on the blockchain): “Libra is designed to be a non for profit and not to centralize things. There are organizations and institutes who are governing it, Facebook is one of 21 players, and hopefully 1 in 100 by the time we launch.”

5. On Healthcare: We should stop thinking about the “disruptive solutions” and focus on “ good enough solutions”.

The healthcare sector is known as a very challenging one due to the many regulations around it and also to the high cost of operating. Therefore, many players in the sector were challenging the “10x better” challenge. Instead, they claimed we should also look into “good enough” solutions that can be implemented fast and in a cheap manner, still making an impact in people’s lives.

6. Everything crypto, everything blockchain, everything AI. Until when?

It’s overwhelming to see how much these three terms were present during the event. It was also overwhelming to see how many companies are labeling themselves as “the next best thing” on these fields. It triggered thoughts on until when this will be the case, and what will happen when the euphoria dies out.

Answering the question: was it worth it?

To be honest, that’s a tough question! This is certainly an expensive event, so I have done my best to prepare in advance and have very clear outcomes to achieve.

All in all, it was worth it for inspiration and also to get a bigger picture of what’s going on in the tech industry. Since I’m quite connected to tech trends, some things were not so surprising, but I could deep dive in many (for example, 5G and how it will impact society).

Since the event can be quite overwhelming, good preparation really helped. Me and my colleague that joined me spent a good amount of hours drawing out a clear schedule and checking all the startups that would be joining. We knew who we wanted to talk to and when, só most of it was also booked one week before.

My advice? If you’re there for business, you must have a very clear goal and do your homework.

If you’re a student and/or job hunters, or a woman in tech, I would say it’s a great opportunity, because you’ll have access to thousands of people that are recruiting or interested in becoming a mentor. But you have to be willing to invest.

If you’re a startup, I would say it’s the same as above: great to be seen, to meet people, specially if you’re looking for investments.

Therefore, I can say that my score for this year was very much positive! I can’t say whether I would come back next year, though. That would probably be too much of investment for the return, given my specific situation.

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What about you? Have you been to Websummit? How was your experience?

By the way, in case you have questions or want to know more about the talks, feel free to reach out! I also have many (many!!) raw notes which are on a google drive folder, and I would be happy to share.

Tks for reading this far :)

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