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The rise of students in tech conferences

After attending a couple of tech conferences, I’ve seen interesting growth in the amount of students attending such industry-leading events in London and beyond.

About 5 months ago, I hadn’t ever been to a conference in person. I’ve always been watching the likes of TC Disrupt, WWDC and SXSW with a particular awe for the inspirational speakers, startups and people. They each help open your mind (something the world at large is in shortage of) through their unique and interesting ethos.

Ever since, I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to attend one myself. The prices were extortionately high so that wasn’t an option. But in January 2013, I had discovered London Web Summit opened up an application process for students to apply and some would receive a highly discounted rate (vs the usual £450 cost). I wasn’t sure what my chances were, but I decided to go for it without expectations. I clearly wasn’t the market the event was marketed for but I could extract so much goodness from it.

Many weeks went by and my hopes had given up until a sudden moment. Exactly a week prior to when LWS was supposed to commence, I received an email around 9.30am stating that I’d been offered a totally free ticket. Yes. Not a discounted one. A free one. I wasn’t prepared by any means but didn’t hesitate to take up the ticket. I was able to witness talks from Patrick Collison, Matt Mullenweg, Mike Butcher, Adam Pritzker and many more in person and it’s definitely different. The atmosphere is unmatched and that’s only why conferences will never die. I later found out that only 40 students were at LWS; 20 received a 100% discount (which included me) and the other 20 received a 80% discount.

I enjoyed the event so much that immediately after, I purchased my student ticket for LeWeb London. Thankfully it wasn’t as stressful as it was only an email away rather than an application process. LeWeb was so overwhelmed with student ticket requests this year that they had to close them. This conference was actually 2 days rather than 1 day for LWS and was nearly double in size. Given I was more of a spectator at LWS, I decided that I would approach a lot more people about my latest project and build up some initial hype (which was a successful campaign). I also had great conversations with exciting people from Accel Partners to HP which I wouldn’t have got anywhere else. It wasn’t just a networking tool; it was a tool to observe and iterate myself accordingly to the tech industry as a whole.

But most importantly, I discovered these rather “hidden” student communities inside of these conferences; people with unmatured careers who held a huge passion for wanting to make an impact. Most of the other students I had met are going to be people we’ll hear about in the near future. They were passionate on levels I had never seen before and that really excited me amongst all. In fact, a particular group called Students at LeWeb was headed by a few Parisians who threw meetups and parties for students. These were well attended from not only just students but notable conference speakers and talented industry experts.

It’s not easy to feel involved in a conference and that’s what makes the passionate students stand out. The do-ers. The ones who will change the world. Some may segegrate through an application process where others may not. Whatever your excuse is, don’t use it. If you want to truly understand the tech industry, you need to be at these conferences no matter what the cost. They’re increasingly making exceptions for students. Take advantage of it. It’s growing from a hidden student community to a world-renowned one. Be a part of it.