The Web Summit 2017 Highlights
Last week the largest tech conference in the world took place: the Web Summit 2017 in Lisbon. As expected, the inspiring talks from big names in the tech industry such as Slack, Reddit, and Intel took the main stages, and innovative tech workshops provided new insight to what was happening in the industry and the latest from the start-up world, Women in Tech, and AI ingenuity. It seemed like the whole tech world gathered together for the exciting event in Lisbon. With a combination of food, wine, the summer-like weather (20 degrees in November!), and the amazing landscapes all set the perfect scene for this event. With 60,000 tickets sold and more than 1200 speakers, this summit was making its mark on the techies and the Lisbon pubs!
AI was undoubtedly the most outspoken word at the summit. One of the opening speakers of the event was Steven Hawking, who explained how AI, in his perspective, was as much a danger as it is a solution. “Success in creating effective AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don’t know.” He hesitantly expressed whether Artificial Intelligence would end poverty or end up killing us all, and that is up to the brightest minds to determine that there’s a form of consensus on how to protect people. Other talks at the summit discussed the topic of AI ranging from the concept of personalized porn with VR equipment to hacking or rebooting your brain for the greater good, mentioned in a speech by Bryan Johnson (Kernel). One of the most intriguing talks was about the interactive interview between the first two robots with citizenship: Sophia Robot and Professor Einstein Robot. With the technology of AI, the robots were answering questions, making jokes, and completely interacting with the interviewer like a human would do. The lady next to us in the audience just couldn’t believe it and kept rambling about how unique this was.
One of the main topics at the summit was Blockchain technology, which proved many opportunities and advancement that were not only evident in fintech but other sectors as well. Blockchain is a decentralized technology for managing accounts, databases or records by its network, and not any one central authority. A great example of this is BitCoins, managed on a peer-to-peer level, without the interference of a central bank. Noelle Acheson from CoinDesk highlighted the emerging projects within healthcare and identity management. In the long run, every network or industry with multiple players need to work together, from fintech to the music industry, and it will be new players that will change the way we work.
Women in Tech
Another word to summarize this summit was ‘equality’; in it’s purest form of doing business, but also in human aspects of gender and overall diversity. As the tech industry has always been a male-dominated field, often marginalizing women, this topic has been brought up multiple times during the summit. Proudly founded by a female entrepreneur, Favoroute had the privilege of getting two discounted tickets for the event. While we had heard some women's discontent about positive discrimination, we believed it was a good initiative to get extra women in the tech industry. With a ‘Women in Tech Lounge’ on the event and extra exposure, it had drawn additional women to the summit. During the summit we met with interesting and experienced women, covering all fields in the tech industry, from development to journalism, tech startup founders to corporate marketing executives.
Tech and Travel
Although the travel industry was not widely represented at the Web Summit, there had been some interesting talks about the innovations happening in the travel industry. One of these examples was the CMO of Hilton Hotels, Geraldine Calpin, who had explained the Hilton Honors app, which is listed as one of the best apps in travel. Her talk was focused on completing the full customer journey for her clients, from online check-in, a digital key, and real-time updates on your room service walking through the hallway. Another great talk was given by the CMO of Ryanair, Kenny Jacobs, who had spoken about making Ryanair the next best ‘retailer’ in the industry and improvements to their technology. In four years, Ryanair went from having no app to being the largest airline app in the world with 27 million users. Another remarkable fact worth sharing is that their website is visited by over 2.5 million people a day without spending a penny on Google, and that 94% of traffic comes directly to their website- every marketer’s dream, you could say. If you compare this to other websites, where 60% of the traffic comes via Google and 19% via Facebook in general, this is a great accomplishment.
Leadership and Innovation
Leadership was a primary theme at the summit. Speaking on the discussion panel: ‘It’s lonely at the top: The Life of a leader,’ leading figures José Neves (Farfetch), Jason Robins (DraftKings), Gillian Tans (Booking.com) and Erin Griffith (Wired) spoke on the topic of leadership and the challenges of being a CEO. The panel focused on how to combat isolation at the top, how this translates to help better equip companies to move forward, and how to create an open company culture as a leader. For example, Griffith pointed out the importance of creating a culture that supports the continuous experimentation that keeps the innovation alive and also empowers your employees by operating as a team, versus a one-man-show. Ideally, creating a culture that implies “we are all in this journey together.”
European Union vs. Silicon Valley
At the summit you could hear languages from around the world: German, Israeli, Indian, English, Brazilian and much more. Nevertheless, one of the trending talks was given by European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. This woman fined three tech giants, Apple (13 billion euro), Amazon (250 million euro) and Google (2.42 billion euro), for tax avoidance who had played an unfair advantage in the European market. Her position was clear: “if you want to do business in Europe, you should play by European rules.” With her courageous pursuit of equality, she’s not afraid to challenge the powerful tech giants for not playing a fair game.
This summit wouldn’t be the largest tech conference in the world if we wouldn’t see some familiar faces. This year was well-attended by Martin Garrix who spoke about using your passion as a driver to your success, Portuguese Victoria Secret Model Sara Sampaio who spoke about celebrity activism, Olympian winner and father of the Kardashian family Caitlyn Jenner who spoke out on gender equality, and the world famous Instagram couple Murad & Nataly Osmann, who focused on their new way of working with marketing agencies. The summit wouldn’t be the same without these big names and was an absolute hit for the ticket sales. Whether the talks were in-depth as you would’ve liked, is something you would have to judge for yourself.
The final and pressing topic was focused on climate change. The Web Summit pulled out the big guns and invited leader and climate activist Al Gore as part of the closing ceremony of the summit, who shed light on the current environmental situation. He posed three main questions about the climate crisis: Do we have to change? Can we change? And will we change? He inspired the audience by saying climate change is not going to be solved by waiting for the decisions to be made by politicians and it’s something everybody in this world should be involved in. He is fierce about the actions that need to be taken from this moment on, yet hopeful that we (as global citizens) can pull it off if we take matters into our own hands. Al Gore explained that “our world is in the early stages of a sustainable revolution.” We can solve it, we have to solve and, with everybody’s help, we will solve it.
Overall, the Web Summit 2017 has been an inspirational and motivational event, where we were able to learn and become inspired by some of the brightest minds of our time. We saw trends and technologies that blew us away, but also concerns about the near future and our relationship with technology.
Note: In this article, we gave you snippets and highlights from some of the events we attended (we could not have attended them all). It was from the standpoint of two attendees of the Web Summit and is subjected to our views & opinions.