“Davos for Geeks” – The first two days
Web Summit 2016
Event Venue (space)
In Lisbon, the Web Summit will enjoy a huge conference venue capable of holding thousands of people. The MEO Arena and FIL Pavilions, structures that were built around 1997 with the purpose of hosting another big event, maybe the biggest event held in Portugal until that date, the Expo 98, will be the new home for the Web Summit conference for the years of 2016, 2017 and 2018. This location does not only impress by its sheer size and capability to host such events, it also greatly benefits from its general area which is a local paradise for tourism (it’s right next to the Tejo river bank), hotels (some freshly built) and company hubs (with some of the biggest corporations setting their offices in the area; examples are IBM, ADIDAS, NOS, Vodafone, Novabase, etc.), with an impressive count of 1731 companies present.
The MEO Arena (previously known as Pavilhão Atlântico), is the biggest concert hall in the country. It has a general capacity of 20 000 people and has served as host to superstar artists such as Scorpions, Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Adele, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Justin Bieber and many more. This is where the Web Summit team decided to place the Center Stage, where the most prominent speakers will be set to shine. The remaining speaker stages, pitch stages and workshops will be placed on the FIL Pavilions (also known as Feira Internacional de Lisboa), the country’s goto space for some of the biggest theme fairs ranging from tourism, music, cars and crafts.
The event kicked off with its first massive hard challenge: 53,056 attendees needed to be registered and welcomed. The organisation reserved an entire day just for this one task (and it was a good decision). There were two places where attendees could proceed with the registration process, one at the events’ venue and another at the Humberto Delgado airport. This was an interesting choice by the organization, since only less than a fifth of the 53,056 attendees were portuguese according to the latest statistics on the event, therefore many attendees would come through Lisbon’s airport and it makes sense to facilitate the registration process by taking care of it as soon as attendees reached the city. Needless to say that the 2 500+ volunteers that worked intensively to make the event a success had a crucial part to take in this process. To them, Simdea sends a big “Thank You!” for the amazing work.
Our registration was quick and swift, as everything we needed was included in the Web Summit App (which was in fact mandatory for the process to run smoothly). We had planned the day in advance (as described previously) and we wanted to conclude our registration early in the morning. The events’ venue was scheduled to open its doors to attendees at 10am and we were there right on time. FIL’s Pavilion 4 was used as the support place on the conference and naturally registration was made there. Thirty minutes later we completed the process, received the wristband which proved our registration and were ready to go. Unfortunately, the venue’s pavilions were closed for the day and the only talk scheduled was the opening ceremony, on the Center Stage, at the end the day. So there was really nothing to do there. Fortunately, we made sure to be prepared and scheduled several meetings throughout the day. All of these meetings occurred at nearby cafes and bars around the venue and we got to meet really interesting people! A big thank you to everyone that gave us a little of their time to exchange information. It was a very pleasant time for us and the experience was very interesting. We were basically running from one meeting to the other and it was a rewarding learning and social experience.
Meanwhile, the Web Summit opening ceremony started on the Center Stage with the presence of Paddy Cosgrave (Web Summit’s CEO) and the portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, which was followed by a few talks participated by former Prime Minister of Portugal and former President of the European Commission Durão Barroso and the world known actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, among others. Unfortunately, Simdea was unable to secure a seat. Queues were extensive, hours before the actual ceremony started and in the end, thousands of attendees had no choice but to follow the event from giant screens strategically placed outside the MEO Arena. But this was not the only hiccup that occurred. During the ceremony, Cosgrave attempted to challenge the Wi Fi installed for the venue and challenged the entire audience to livestream the event on Facebook. The attempt was unsuccessful, at least on Cosgrave’s mobile phone and the issue was stressed in the press as one of the main reasons for the Web Summits’ move from Dublin to Lisbon pertained the poor Wi Fi infrastructure in Ireland. Later he comment on the issue saying that “Web Summit is never perfect. But if we find something wrong, we fix it.”. A fair mindset, we might add.
The conference’s second day kickstarted most of the stages that were placed on the FIL Pavilions. The conference opened at 10am just like the day before and Simdea started the day the good old portuguese way: by drinking a cup of coffee. With no meetings scheduled for this day, the plan was to absorb as much as possible, learning the from the stands and people around us. Although we already knew that it would be impossible, we verified first hand that only two people would not be enough to attend all the talks we felt interesting to listen to. Not only the stages are somewhat apart from each other, there are always 10+ talks happening simultaneously! This is another piece of evidence that planning ahead of the conference is absolutely necessary.
So what talks did we eventually attend?
- Scaled AI solves the world’s most complex problems :: Antoine Blondeau (Sentient Technologies) :: AutoTech – Talk Robot stage
- The very first talk we decided to attend was located on the Auto Tech stage, where the CEO of Sentient Technologies, Antoine Blondeau, talked about the present and future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the work his company is doing with it.
- The key point of this talk was to demonstrate how AI can can solve complex problems while growing and evolving constantly. After the Mobile Era, we will experience a new Era ruled by Artificial Intelligence.
- Building your brand in a mobile world :: Gary Briggs (Facebook), Kurt Wagner (Recode) :: PandaConf stage
- The second talk featured the “big fish” Gary Brigs, the CMO of Facebook. Unlike the first talk which was executed in presentation format, this talk took the format of a live interview. The interviewer was Kurt Wagner, the Senior Editor of Recode.
- As for the content of the talk, it was heavily centered on Facebook and what is going on the company. We got to watch the commercial for Facebook Live and we also got a small preview on Gary’s job and his experience throughout his career.
- Challenging the superclubs :: Rui Costa, Domingos Oliveira and Nuno Gomes (SL Benfica), Andy Mitten (United We Stand / FourFourTwo / ESPN) :: SportsTrade stage
- This talk was one of the most anticipated for us. Everyone at Simdea is a huge football fan and our Co-Founder Paulo Ribeiro is a diehard SL Benfica fan, so this talk was eagerly awaited. As the previous talk, this one was also an interview conducted by the respected sport journalist Andy Mitten from FourFourTwo.
- The main intent was to discuss how economically weaker clubs could challenge the current dominance of richer clubs in Europe and to present SL Benfica’s plan for doing just that.
- There was enough room for a bit of everything in this fun modded conversation. It started by analysing the problem (economic strength and how we that be mitigated in order to still achieve a competitive club), followed by SL Benfica’s CEO Domingos Oliveira explaining how the club approaches and practices the theory (a practice that started more than a decade ago). For the conclusion, Andy took advantage of having two brilliant ex-footballers on stage to ask about their careers which very much pleased the cheering crowd.
- The art of hacking a conference :: Michael Birch (Monkey Inferno), Chris McClelland (Brewbot), Tony Conrad (about.me & True Ventures), Connor Murphy (CMTO), Cathryn Posey (Tech by Superwomen) :: Startup University stage
- Being a young company, we were very interested on the talks occurring on the Startup University stage. This talk’s aim was to teach young entrepreneurs on how to use these kind of events to their favor. Interesting questions such as “How to approach an investor?” got answered as the participants told their own experiences.
- You will not succeed: The power of perseverance :: Brian Norton (Future Finance) :: Startup University stage
- This talk touched upon one of the biggest problems every entrepreneur faces: fear and lack of self-belief. Brian Norton tried to break down the problem by identifying the sources and solutions and finished with his own story.
- Bots: What are they good for? :: David Marcus (Facebook), Loic Le Meur (Leade.rs) :: Center stage
- Bots and their use is currently one of the most important topics for tech companies. With the rise and dominance of messenger apps, should bots be the answer for new marketing strategies and customer care / engagement?
- This topic was discussed by the Vice President of Messaging Products from Facebook, David Marcus and the Founder & CEO of Leade.rs. Both agreed that messaging apps are where most users are and the kind of interactions provided by bots can be used and improved to deliver better marketing and customer care and customer engagement with a product / company. David used Facebook Messenger’s example and the work being developed in Facebook for bots to support this view.
- Do footballers make good entrepreneurs? :: Luís Figo (Dream Football), Ronaldinho Gaúcho (Zoome), James Dart (The Guardian) :: Center stage
- The final talk of the day brought us back to football topics. The journalist James Dart conducted an interview to ex-footballer’s turned entrepreneurs Luís Figo and Ronaldinho Gaúcho where the crowd got to know their experience with the transition from the football field to starting their own enterprise ventures and how their on pitch careers gave them an invaluable asset in their current businesses.
Hardworking and passionate individual keen on learning and clearing any challenges coming his way.
Working in such a fast paced industry as Application Development, Paulo always aims to try and learn new technologies and new ways to perform his work, either through optimization or efficient process management. He is always open to embrace projects as long as they represent a brand new challenge and learning experience for him.