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53,056 People: Web Summit 2016


53,056 People: Web Summit 2016

53,056 people attended Web Summit 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal this November. Web Summit is the self-proclaimed mecca and greater culmination of all that is Europe’s tech scene bringing together entrepreneurs from all over the world. Described by the organization as an unrivaled global meeting place for the world’s most disruptive technology companies and those interested in how that disruption can transform their businesses and their lives.

web-summit-main-signWhat I witnessed

Well, it’s clearly massive. When we arrived at Lisbon Portela Airport we could tell the entire city was in an absolute buzz. We were immediately met with subtle traces of the event and excitement that was about to unfold — from WiFi SSIDs to directional signs and early registration — all within the airport. We were at the forefront of an invasion that was about to descend on the city: 50,000 eager Attendees, Exhibitors, Speakers, and Media. Brace yourselves.

Being one of the first to arrive in the city I truly witnessed the proverbial calm before the storm. There were elements of the event everywhere: massive sculptures of the logo placed in landmark areas of the city and the famous Bairro Alto neighborhood – the soon to be after hours hub buzzing with pubs and restaurants bracing for impact.

Opening Day

The event officially kicked off with an opening session with the preeminent Paddy Cosgrave taking the stage. The crowed went wild, he reminisced, applauded, and thanked us all for our involvement, and contributions to the success that has become Web Summit. After his short opening remarks he welcomed António Costa — Portugal’s Prime Minister — to the stage who announced the launch of a 200MM Euro Investment Fund by the Portuguese Government. It’s name? Startup Portugal. Its goal? Place Portugal on the map as Europe’s next startup paradise. After that, 15,000+ people took to the streets of Lisbon for the first Night Summit.

The Summit Itself

The Summit was overwhelming. For those who have attended the American sister conference Collision in New Orleans, think that 4x, with the addition of a 20,000 person stadium serving as ‘Center Stage’. Each pavilion had its own smaller conferences inside focusing on specific topics and housing the big brands and large sponsor booths for companies such as Facebook, Twilio, BMW, Air Canada, etc.

Here is a breakdown of the pavilions to give a better ideas of the layout


Pavilion 1

  • Sports Trade
  • HealthConf
  • FUTURE Societies
  • SaaS Monster
  • Music Notes

Pavilion 2

  • MONEY Conf
  • Content Makers
  • AutoTech
  • Talk Robot

Pavilion 3

  • CreaTIFF

Each of the pavilions housed an area for summit sessions and a mirroring expo area for companies designated as Alpha, Beta, and START. Alpha companies are just getting started, Beta are slightly further along, and START are typically cashflow positive or post their Series A round.

Web Summit brings 1,490 startups from across the globe 135 START, 270 BETA, 1,080 ALPHA

Overall the summit was pouring content with the pressure of a firehose and if you didn’t keep up you’d be washed away.

The Content

The content at Web Summit leveraged a multitude of insights to the issues and challenges faced by growing companies, their funding goals, and processes and pitfalls of building adaptive teams in the ever-changing startup scene. There were a seemingly infinite amount of topics covered with a little something for everyone.

A few notable discussions from individuals like Amazon’s CTO Werner Vogels and his insight to running one of the largest data aggregates on earth, Twitch Founder Justin Kan and his rise to success with JustinTV and his later role in Y-Combinator, Reddit Founder Alexis Ohanian and notorious relentless content monster Gary Vaynerchuk on how to produce content in context. They all had one key component which was their reflection on the unrelenting hunger it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur in today’s startup ecosystem.

The Summit closed with an incredibly inspiring and exhilarating talk led by Hyperloop One Chairman and Founder of Sherpa Capital, Shervin Pishevar. Their goal was to articular the future with Hyperloop One. A super-sonic rail system solving our worlds logistics issues when moving freight and people in high-speed environments. Their goals are even so lofty as to solve the ‘last mile’ problem which is how individual navigate from their station to their final destination. It left the crowd awe-inspired and pondering the future of a truly freedom-of-location lifestyle.

My Main Take Away

Web Summit is hard and fast. If you hustle hard, get up early and network like a beast you’ll make some great connections.

In the words of Gary Vee: “This is the greatest era to be alive and be an entrepreneur if you want it.”

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