Web Summit started as a local tech event in Dublin in 2009 and its growth as an annual event was insane:
- 400 attendees in 2010
- 4000 in 2012
- More than 10000 in 2013
- More than 42000 people in 2015
It has been held in Lisbon since 2016 gathering more than 70 000 people every year.
It's literally a Bitcoin in the world of offline tech events. Perhaps the most massive tech event in the world that attracted the top tier managers of the top tier companies, politicians of the highest rank like presidents and prime ministers and even retired pro skaters took part in Web Summit as speakers.
What Could Go Wrong?
There has been a big scandal that broke out around Web Summit this year. Web Summit CEO faced an insane cancellation shitstorm after he made a few inaccurate statements on Twitter about the Israel-Hammas war.
Even though he resigned, it didn't help. The majority of the top-tier speakers withdrew from the participation. The same did all big tech participants.
As for me, I decided to go and see what was going on there anyway.
Lisbon During Web Summit
Web Summit is held for 4 days and during that time the whole of Lisbon turns into a bit of a Silicon Valley movie.
The amount of attendees is so huge compared to the population of Lisbon, that you start to notice people pitching their startups everywhere.
Whenever you go, you see attendees who are not taking off their badges even for a second. The city is full of Web Summit "spots" where you can register for the event or take a photo pretending that you are a techie.
Apart from the Web Summit itself, there were dozens of side events around the city that were held by companies, funds, or whoever else.
Lisbon's Pink Street which is a party-hard area turns into a night attraction site for VCs of all kinds.
Apart from the daily Web Summit event, there is also a Night Summit. It's a party with DJs and drinks which is held in different locations every day.
My Web Summit Impressions
It was INSANELY huge.
Probably the biggest event I had ever seen in my life. It was claimed to have about 70k attendees, no matter the scandal this year. I didn't count but the number of people was enormous.
it had incredible startup fair vibes probably like TechCrunch Disrupt or something that I could only see on the internet before.
IRL it was almost exactly like I imagined it. Literally dozens of rows of stands with hundreds (or maybe thousands?) of standalone startups and their founders. Dozens of investment funds stand.
There were country-specific areas that gathered startups from those countries and also advertised their innovation hubs, tax havens, or whatever they had attractive in terms of investment climate.
Lounge zone for attendees of all kinds: developers, VCs, women in tech.
Endless food courts, coffee spots, and chill zones.
In many ways, it was exactly like it was parodied in the Silicon Valley show with all those weird startup ideas as if they came from a buzzword bingo.
AI + Pets + Diet = "Pets Diet AI Advisor SaaS"
Anyway, I would say that it was a pretty exciting experience. No matter what, thousands of smart people who have enough courage to bet on their vision are inspiring. They CAN infect with optimism.
I usually feel very skeptical about my own "ideas".
However, when I see how seriously someone can talk about installing lasers on spaceships to destroy space junk it gives me some sort of additional self-confidence.
What's the Profit
There are obvious reasons for attending this kind of event if you have a startup and are looking for funding or you have some money to spend on someone's startup.
What if you are a software engineer? Well, it's possible to find a job. There were some talent acquisition sessions there. But it looked to be rather far from the main event objective.
However, for a software development agency, it appears to be rather beneficial to take part in that sort of event.
What About Talks?
Unfortunately, I can't benefit from talks because I find myself totally incapable of perceiving information during the conference events in the form of talks.
First of all, I prefer either a written form or at least a recorded video. That's just more convenient.
Secondly, it's oxygen. No matter how powerful the vent airflow is. There is never enough oxygen for several thousands of people who spend the whole day in the same room. An hour or two is usually enough to feel broke and sleepy for the rest of the day.
What About Networking?
Networking is a fairy tale from people without sociophobia who can benefit a lot from Web Summit by leveraging their social connections. 100% worthy, but only if you are not an introvert.
For introverts, I've got a hackaround.
Instead of talking to complete strangers, I arrange to meet with people whom I already know. At least online.
In that case, we are not complete strangers so we are likely to break through the utter silence and find something to talk about.
There is also a very high chance that they would bring someone with them so we can catch up all together.
How To Cook Web Summit
Web Summit is a fair excuse to meet with people.
For example, there aren't many people who would travel to another part of the continent just to meet me for a cup of coffee. But Web Summit is a good reason to do it. Especially if your company pays for the tickets and accommodation.
It's not a must to go to the main event itself since there a plenty of related events around the city which I've already mentioned.
After all, it's not about the event. It's all about smart people who gather in one city and have enough time to get in touch.