Web Summit is the most crowded event in Europe — this year it has brought together 70,000 attendees, including hundreds of custom software development services representatives. The number alone sounds impressive. High expectations and excessive advertising. But does Web Summit live up to its popularity? Let’s break it down.
Reality: A lot of talks appeared to be sponsored and generally mediocre. Take for example speakers who came on stage in leopard pajamas trying to rub in some marketing bullshit. Too many crowd-pleasers like robot Sophia and sponsored talks from market leaders like Microsoft, Samsung, and others. A few local big cheeses, politicians, bloggers and a couple of forgettable representatives of global brands.
Reality: Web Summit indeed is the place to meet and network with people from all walks of life. Everyone seemed open-minded: You could start a conversation with anyone and easily find company to go out for drinks during Night Summit.
Reality: No way. Too many students and young professionals. A great deal of attendees came to visit Portugal and Lisbon. On average, the level of audience is extremely low. If we divide the crowd into layers, there will be employees of the Giant companies such as IBM who had nothing new to tell, except for regurgitating their guidelines. Then come students and aspiring professionals. The likelihood to meet a classic CTO or at least a decision maker is around 3% to 5%. Like at any other conference, the attendees were busy collecting gifts and free water bottles.
Reality: Basically, advertising stands and concealed service companies that sell developers but try to pass for a startup. As soon as you dig deeper, it appears that the founders established their idea as Alpha, while in reality, they operate as a service company. Nevertheless, there were a lot of legitimate startups. Beta startups were also well-represented providing the opportunity to learn a plenty of new things.
One more thing to mention — an abundance of companies from Russia that have renamed themselves into UK startups. Ukrainian companies on the other hand decently and proudly represented their country.
Reality. Web Summit gives away too many tickets, for example, tickets for female attendees for only €40 compared to the standard price of €425. Lots of local companies. Some bought Alpha for three, which is much cheaper.
All in all, the pricing policy is far from being transparent and gender neutral. It’s sad that such a noticeable event as Web Summit provides unequal opportunities for men and women. I’m not sure what such policy promotes but definitely not equal rights.
Reality: The first two days were the most attended with the quality of talks on par. The third day was much weaker in terms of attendance and speakers.
Reality: The event is just too big to offer a perfect service. That’s why the service level can be best described as merely good.
Reality: There are exceptions for sure, but the statistics tells otherwise. If we take service companies from Ukraine for example — Softserve brought 80 employees. Another service company ELEKS brought 20. A great deal of companies at the stands were service companies. Add an influx of local companies and attendees from Eastern Europe. Western companies were underrepresented. There were indeed a few professionals who could attract potential clients, but Web Summit is a more of an inspirational kind of event than a specialized conference.
The upside of Web Summit is Lisbon itself and a number of new, interesting startups. The downside, unfortunately, is a broad audience, hosts, and obviously sponsored talks.
A word of advice to the hosts: Do not schedule obviously sponsored talks in the first half of the day. No matter how much they are paying you. If I wanted to look at people in weird suits and slippers, I would watch a TV show.
What I wanted was to learn how to make the Internet available to all of mankind and to listen to people who desire to change the world. To see something different. Robot Sophia is nowadays a frequent visitor at any event but not anymore an innovation or pièce de résistance.
What I witnessed was a huge number of people being herd into the shackles of advertising for the sake of making money. I don’t want to be a sheep in that flock. So the choice I make is not to support mass events like Web Summit.
Goodbye Web Summit — you have once been great!
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