Last week, together with our company’s COO, I attended the WebSummit2023 event in Lisbon, and after a few days spent away, the saying ‘Disconnect to reconnect’ couldn’t be more appropriate. After a busy autumn which culminated with a successful Black Friday for all our clients who took part in the sales event, the week came as a valuable reset. Being able to get away from our regular duties and absorb the latest trends and developments alongside fellow tech community members came as a relaxing and at the same time a transformative experience.
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Greeting us with balmy temperatures, Lisbon is a true feast for the eyes. One of the oldest cities in Western Europe is so rich in history and culture that it made us gasp in awe at every corner. Landmarks like the Belem Tower, Jerónimos Monastery, and São Jorge Castle, the iconic yellow trams running on the quaint, cobbled streets, they all begged to be seen.
Luckily, WebSummit presents itself not only as one of the greatest tech events, but also as the perfect chance to enjoy the beautiful Lisbon, leading to an amazing all-in-one experience.
Choosing Portugal proved a fantastic choice because the tech startup scene drew a lot of attention in recent years. In 2021 alone, foreign investment in startups exceeded €1.5 billion and did not seem to slow in the following years. The IT sector has experienced a remarkable growth rate of 52% in 2022.
So, after a relaxing morning taking in some beautiful sights, we made our way to the Altice Arena where around 20.000 people, eager to find out the latest in technology, were making their way in. Pictures might not do it the right justice, but the scale of the whale event is absolutely staggering.
In fact, the organizers announced that around 70000 people attended, a figure that puts it on the map of some of the most attended tech events in the world.
The first day was all about AI and brought on stage well-known names like Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at MIT, Kuo Zhang, The President of Alibaba and Meredith Whittaker from Signal, among many more.
Andrew McAfee touched on sensitive subjects like finding the right level of governance for AI, in such a way that it protects users and at the same time, doesn’t hinder innovation.
The president of Alibaba, Kuo Zhang talked about the importance of global trade and how businesses can thrive if they look at expanding cross-border by using digital platforms. By using cutting-edge technologies like AI, big data, and cloud computing, Alibaba.com streamlines complex processes such as product sourcing, payment security, and logistics management, the company’s comprehensive e-commerce ecosystem offers a seamless and efficient gateway for businesses of all sizes to connect with suppliers and buyers worldwide.
AI also made headlines and Mr. Kuo Zhang talked about Live Stream Shopping and Alibaba’s strive to eliminate language barriers with the help of AI.
Apart from tech-related subjects, the day was also sprinkled with appearances from celebrities like Wladimir Klitschko, Cesc Fabregas, Patrice Evra who all brought forward compelling stories of success and challenges, which were very inspirational.
We spent the second part of the day relaxing at the Oceanário de Lisboa followed by some delicious Portuguese cuisine – we especially enjoyed the famous Pastel de Nata (custard tart).
The second day continued to be governed by subjects touching AI, with Data Scientific CEO Cassie Kozyrkov talking about AI and the future of work, how jobs will look in the future or which jobs will stay 100% human.
Shuji Utsumi from Sega gave an interesting presentation about how virtual characters are taking the livestream world by storm, managing to grow a massive fan base.
An interesting topic was touched by Colin Daniels from Adweek and his guests, who talked about personalization trends and the look of the marketing sector in 2024. The talk explained how companies like Pandora and Lush make personalization their top priority, whether we are talking about customer journeys, or growing communities.
Day two also brought on stage actress Morena Baccarin who spoke about her work with The International Rescue Committee and used the attention that she draws to do some good.
The first part of day three was reserved to showcasing successful startups in the tech industry and various talks about guides to going global. The Mayors of Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro explained why the two cities are becoming globally renowned hubs for tech startups.
Marketing topics filled the day again, with topics like out-of-home advertising, or the power of high quality content. An interesting talk was held by Meike Neitz, who spoke about trends in future societies.
Marcos de Moraes, CEO at Doris.mobi, the AR platform for the fashion industry, talked about how AI is reshaping the fashion market with an innovative purchasing journey.
To stick to our ecommerce roots, we attended an interesting talk from Tranch co-founder and CEO Philip Kelvin who shared insights into the group’s payment problems, and explained why providing payment flexibility can accelerate B2B revenue.
Later a panel of 17 speakers from various startups activating in the eCommerce sector talked about how eComm is constantly evolving and showcased their products which transform the shopping experience, enhancing customer engagement.
The Startup pitching competition was an interesting event to watch. Witnessing the passion and dedication of other entrepreneurs was truly inspiring and helped me observe how they handled questions and gather insights into what investors are currently looking for in a startup.
And because our Marketing team recently wrote an article about Web3 (you can see it here), we found it really captivating to learn more about it. Unfortunately, Web3’s future is still distant, but Web 2.5 seems like a safer bet for getting a taste of a decentralised technological world, the best of this world-in-between. The talks were held by Brittany Kaiser from Own Your Data.
The day continued with many talks about crypto, fintech, marketing, AI and ChatGPT and their role in building stronger connections with customers, and data quality importance for AI.
The final day at WebSummit did not slow the pace at all. The first part of the morning was allocated to talks about the startup scene, followed by a presentation by Kelly Rutherford, actor, entrepreneur and investor at Whyzzer about what it takes to be a content creator in the actual context.
To lighten up the atmosphere, Pandora hosted a Q&A session with shiny giveaways, a well-received break from the intensity of the talks.
And, as with every serious tech event, humanoid robots could not miss. DesdemonaX, the robot from SingularityNET answered a few questions that shed light on the hot subject of Artificial general intelligence (AGI) – is decentralization beneficial?
Center stage was then taken by influencer and Youtuber Mari Maria, and her associate at MariMariaMakeup, Rudy Loures, who talked about Live commerce and strategies to convert followers into income.
The votes for the Stratup pitch competition were revealed and Inspira emerged as the jury’s winner among 100 competing startups, with an AI-powered legal assistant for day-to-day operations in the legal sector.
Final thoughts after 4 days of tech bonanza
WebSummit Lisbon offered a unique convergence of technology, business, and innovation talks, and the staggering number of attendees meant that the event provided not only an unparalleled platform for learning but also a good opportunity to network with like-minded people.
The insights gained from the diverse array of keynote speeches, panel discussions, and interactive sessions, were invaluable. They offered a deeper understanding of the latest trends and technologies shaping the web and digital landscape, crucial for staying ahead in a rapidly evolving industry. Not to mention that these 5 days away helped me disconnect from my daily duties and take in one of the most vibrant and culturally rich European capitals – Lisbon.
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