Last year when I reviewed Web Summit, I jokingly called it “Glastonbury for tech geeks.” When I arrived at this year’s festival of technology, I realised I’d been accidentally prophetic – there were now 3 main areas of the festival, accessible by walking for between 5 and 10 minutes, just like the Glastonbury stages. This also meant, Glastonbury-like, you’d have to factor in not just speakers clashing but walking time between stages when planning your day (and this year you really needed to plan your day, with 614 speakers and 10 stages to choose from).
My intention at Websummit is normally to meet as many startups as possible – I have a great interest in new technology and ideas, and this is a great place to meet founders of exciting companies before they disappear behind a wall of emails that never get answered. So I set about on the first day visiting startups who had stalls and were exhibiting their products/services. I realised at 2 o’ clock that the stalls were never-ending. New rooms would open up into new rooms, filled with ever more young companies. I gave up on discovery to watch Huffington Post CEO Jimmy Maymann’s talk on the future of content in mobile and social. Huffington Post now have 100 million unique visitors a month. They are an internet giant. I attempted to tackle more stalls but had to admit defeat, there were just too many.
The Twitter party was as big and brash as you’d expect from a big American company throwing an event. Free bar, lots of Twitter swag, and dubstep-dance-pop being blasted at you from all directions. Ironically, it was probably the worst place for networking at the entire event. No-one wanted to hear elevator pitches, everyone wanted pitchers of cocktails. Far better was the after party at Dakota, which saw TechCrunch editor-at-large Mike Butcher judge an impromptu dance-off while Mind Candy founder Michael Acton-Smith applauded while wearing a nice jacket. At 3am it was all over and everyone was left with the unlikely prospect of a 9am start.
Other highlights from the week include some strong final day talks from Adrian Grenier, Bono, Eric Wahlforss (Founder & CTO of Soundcloud) and Dana Brunetti, producer of House of Cards. Adrian Grenier’s sober reflection on the music industry that “the days of coke and private jets are over” is probably my favourite quote of the entire weekend. The most impressive startups I met at websummit were Loop 88 and eTalia. Loop 88 uses influencers with thousands of followers on Pinterest to get a brand message out to tens of thousands of people. Their founder Dave Weinberg is the go-to guy for Pinterest knowledge: Through him I found out 41% of all e-commerce sharing happens on Pinterest. Also, eTalia is looking very strong as a new way to discover news.
My highlight of the weekend is the impromptu house party thrown by logograb at their rooftop apartment. A fridge which never ran out of beer, and far more of a local, friendly feel then any of the official nightsummit events. I brought along the Irish natives who had been keeping me in lols the whole week, and two of them ended up going in the (freezing) out door pool while it rained so hard the rest of us were watching with umbrellas. This is my favourite picture of Websummit, from when they re-emerged in towels:
I laughed harder than I had done in months, a magical moment of freedom in a week of often very serious business discussions and guessworking. I look forward to more next year.
Photos via Websummit, aside from the last one, via my iPhone