Exploring Web Summit 2023: Insights from the heart of Lisbon’s tech hub
Our team recently participated at this year’s Web Summit, and let us tell you, it was a journey full of inspiration, connections, and innovation! Below you’ll find some of the highlights we thought are worth sharing.
Lisbon was buzzing, not just with Portuguese custard tarts, but with the energy of 70,000 tech enthusiasts ready to conquer Web Summit 2023. And amidst this all, our BackstageIT troop went headfirst into the action.
Web Summit is the annual conference where caffeine-powered innovators, tech wizards, and investors gather all together in one place. Born in Dublin, the conference grew bigger than a viral cat video on YouTube. From tech gathering to tech extravaganza, swapping Irish rain for Portuguese sun. But this isn’t just an event; it’s a digital circus that takes over Lisbon’s Altice Arena and its surroundings.
Web Summit 2023 saw a similarly high attendance level of 70,236, just a slight dip from last year’s figure. However, what truly stands out is the increased representation of women this year, marking a rise from 42% in 2022 to 43% among the attendees.
A 1.12% drop in attendance from Web Summit 2022 to 2023 might be considered relatively small or negligible, especially for large-scale events that typically experience fluctuations in attendance from year to year.
Weeks before the conference, co-founder, majority shareholder, and the face of the company, Paddy Cosgrave, tweeted the non-conflict commentary on current affairs possible:
“I’m shocked at the rhetoric and actions of so many Western leaders & governments, with the exception in particular of Ireland’s government, who for once are doing the right thing. War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are.”
After that, he quickly resigned as CEO and hasn’t tweeted since. However, the absence of Google, Meta, and Amazon, among others, only brought the spotlight back to one of the most prominent aspects of Web Summit: innovation.
To say we were impressed by the greatness of this event is to say nothing. The center stage hosts keynote talks and pitch competitions, while nearby pavilions hum with panel discussions, workshops, and product demonstrations. It’s where startups show off, investors hunt, and visionaries party harder than your local on a Friday night. From Europe to the whole world, this is the tech world’s rock concert.
Besides this, there were many sitting places and a really diverse food court where you could actually find anything you wanted.
An important point we must highlight is that there were water dispensers in each pavilion and a lot of toilets. This might sound silly, but not all events think about this when organizing an event, so they get a +1 point from us.
One thing we must talk about is the booths of the companies that were present at the summit.
Some of them kept it more simple, while others really went out of their way to stand out. Check out some of the most interesting ones below. (add photos from Qatar booths, the one with a bathtub and the interactive one with stickers).
Startups ruled center stage, showcasing their ideas and driving a noticeable shift in the event’s dynamic. Young companies took the space and opportunity to thrive, and there was noticeably younger energy to this event than the previous years.
Now starting on speeches and all sessions. Each of us had the websummit app on our phones, and we could customize our agenda based on our interests and professional needs. Some went to marketing sessions, some chose HR and some of us chose to wander around the pavilions and start conversations with companies and startups, looking for business opportunities.
There were a lot of different sessions. And we mean A LOT. Unfortunately or not, a great part of the information was relatively known to us, so we found ourselves changing our agenda quite often, in the hope of finding new interesting topics.
We like to believe that this is because we are so obsessed with informing ourselves, that we left for Web Summit to deliver hidden thoughts and ideas from speeches, rather than full business and marketing strategies, haha.
One session – one (main) thought
- The Inevitable Future: Transforming for Tomorrow, Believed by Collins Brian
“Alone is Great, but Nothing Great is Made Alone”: Doing things by yourself is good, but to achieve something truly great, you often need to work with others and collaborate.
- Brand Building 101 by Juan Pablo Ortega
Conducting a Net Promoter Score quiz (NPS) helps measure customer loyalty, identify areas for improvement, and predict business growth by assessing customers’ likelihood to recommend a company.
- Creating Great Content by Patrice Evra & Lauren Gray
The most effective content for social media is content that inspires and motivates people. Post messages that evoke positive emotions, encouragement, or a sense of inspiration tend to resonate well with audiences.
- Profit from ideas to supercharge your tech startup, hosted by the EU Patent Ofice
Strive for consistency without becoming too predictable, maintaining a balance that keeps things fresh and engaging.
- Tech-enabled Success and the Future of Work by Shobie Ramakrishnan
It’s easier to interact with computer software than with human software, so for now we have to understand it and embrace it.
- Your Audience, your profits, by Joao Pedro, Tiffany Claiborne, and Sergio Fernandez
Figure out what the audience wants and do that, no matter what the algorithm of the platforms says it works better. Also, the audience connects better with someone who’s struggling with the same issues as them.
- AI and the future of work: How to stay 100% human? by Cassie Kozrkov
The AI content still has creators in the back who designed the content database, so it’s not 100% AI-generated content, also think of AI content as the raw material (like research), you still have to edit it, so it fits better for your business.
- Storytelling: How to build trust and drive growth by Tilo Bonow
Money is the currency of transactions, and TRUST is the currency of interactions. To get a customer from buying something “known” to something “unknown” you have to take a risk. And when you build trust, you bridge that gap of uncertainty, so it’s easier for people to try something unknown you offer them.
- The world is on fire. Here’s a realistic plan to save it by Sage Lenier
The ones who are doing the most damage to nature are big enterprises (like fossil fuel extractors, and many more) and we all have to get together to hold them responsible.
- Why meaningful content is the new tool for growth by Benjamin Buthmann, Eric-Niclas Garsleitner and Wiktoria Wojcik
Sometimes throwing all marketing rules aside works for brands, but you have to post something that your audience might find interesting and useful rather than post something that makes your brand look good.
- What is an AI strategy and why does every business need one? by Tamara Steffens and Sami Bouremoum
A modern business that is not using AI won’t be as competitive in the market as it could be.
- How to be funny while being serious by Jolyon Rubinstein
Humor helps people consume meaningful content easier and better.
* One thing we recommend to be changed for the 2024 edition is to not clickbait the titles of the sessions. Most of them did not entirely suggest what the session actually included. This is a pity, considering you get your hopes up thinking you’ll get some information on an exact topic you are interested in, and you don’t.
The word that appeared most often in all sessions was CONSISTENCY. So, guessing we can all agree that being consistent helps us make a strong plan, keep our promises, and help us steadily reach our goals.
The Night Summit is where the long day transforms into a nocturnal playground for attendees. The venues pulsate with energy as the sun dips below Lisbon’s skyline, offering everyone a chance to ditch business for a more relaxed vibe. While not a sanctuary from elevator pitches in shuttle buses or entry queues, it’s a chance to network more vigorously over a glass of rosé.
The Night Summit remains the pièce de résistance, a dreamscape where the tech-savvy trade pitches for pints, and geeks create alliances on Pavilhão Carlos Lopes dancefloors and in Pink Street pubs.
Web Summit 2023 felt surprisingly alive and engaging, despite the gloomy forecasts. Even though there were some controversies and political shadows, this year’s event buzzed with unexpected energy, making it more fascinating than anticipated.
If you come to the summit expecting to write in a notebook all the points for next year’s strategy, this is not the place.
To be absolutely clear, we don’t regret a single second that we spent there. We got to see a whole new level of events, got to meet a lot of business owners, and got inspired by the diversity of people there, but we believe that there’s room for improvement in how information is delivered at Web Summit 2024.
We left Lisbon with our heads full of new ideas and hearts overflowing with the idea that together, we can push the boundaries of technology and make a real difference in the world.
So, to all the fellow techies out there, we say this: Web Summit 2023 is an experience you have to have at least once in your lifetime. It’s a place where great minds get together, innovation ignites, and the future of tech learns to take shape.
Web Summit 2023: mission accomplished. Lisbon, you were awesome. Until next time!