It’s not all about Cristiano Ronaldo’s right and left boot, custard tarts and fortified wine in Portugal, as Spain’s westward neighbor has cemented itself as one of Europe’s top technology capitals over recent years. This is, in part, thanks to Web Summit, the world’s largest annual jamboree of entrepreneurs, media and technology investors like me.
The event was hosted in Dublin between its founding in 2009 until 2016, when it outgrew Ireland and landed in its new home of Lisbon. Now more than 70,000 people from over 160 countries gather at Lisbon’s Altice Arena to talk-shop, make deals and absorb some thought leadership from the likes of Tony Blair, Michel Barmier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, and Canva co-founder Melanie Perkins.
The event is big, really big, which is great, but also has its downfalls. As lovely as Lisbon is, you often find yourself standing around and looking at the scenery, as queue sizes fall from ‘enormous’ to ‘rather large’ to ‘really quite big’. In this way and many others, The Guardian has it right when it labelled the cities’ Web Summit as the “Glastonbury for Geeks”.
Glasto’ has VIP access, where you can rub shoulders with A-list artists, while Web Summit has investor tags - a golden ticket opening up otherwise closed-door roundtables, networking opportunities and discussions. It was good to catch-up with some old faces and make a few new contacts.
This is all under Chatham House rules, so I can’t give away much and who said it, but I was boosted by a buoyant sentiment about the Internet of Things (IoT) industry. There was some concern around high valuations in the US, but this is good for Europe as investors seek out better value in Europe.
Not to labour the point too much, but operational involvement from tech VCs was yet again a topic of prominence and importance among the investment community present at Web Summit. This is something that came up at the recent British Private Equity & Venture Capital summit in London, and it’s something that Breed Reply has been doing since its founding, as we help investees with marketing, leadership development and commercial operations. We are champions of the hands-on approach for early-stage tech businesses, but you must deliver value for that involvement.
Elsewhere, and not taking away from Lisbon, London continues to be seen as the centre of tech entrepreneurship outside of the US and, in fact, is growing in importance, at least according to the fellow investors I spoke to at Web Summit. It was also fantastic to see a plethora of new and exciting start-ups that are eager to hit the market. I visited around 100 during my attendance.
IoT and all its related technologies were once again prominent within a large number of the startups across all verticals, with a big showing in Industry 4.0 and Health and Wellness. Consumer products were also present, with an interesting presentation from Samsungs Chief Innovation Officer David Eun – He believes we are on the cusp of a third phase of home technology, the first being smart appliances but all stand alone, the second (which we are in right now) the connected home, which he believes will be accelerated by 5G and the third phase to be led by experiences. The question will not be what is connected in your home, but what is not connected.
All in all, Web Summit delivered once again. However, at this rate, they’re going to have to find a bigger venue.