Preparing for opening night!

6 takeaways from Websummit for 2018

Last week my colleagues and I attended websummit in Lisbon. After comparing our notes and discussing key trends among ourselves I would like to share some of the insights, trends and takeaways. I will discuss six broad theme’s we discovered throughout the summit.

1. (compartmentalized) AI First

The overarching theme of the Summit was the wide spread application of machine learning techniques. Personally I dislike the term AI in this regard. Because in my experience it gets misinterpreted easily. Currently machine learning, big data and neural networks describe most applications out there. In short the culmination of these technologies ensure organizations are getting significantly better at producing human like behavior within a specific dimension. The example used by Sentient CEO Antoine Blondeau was quite clarifying. Yes with AI technology a machine can teach itself to play Go better than any human. That machine would however be utterly unable to play chess. While it means that machine learning concentrates on tasks in a certain dimension it does not mean it is without use. Every day it becomes easier to automate complex repetitive tasks like image recognition or accounting. This means organization need to do business with this in mind. One of the speakers at the summit put it like this, if you are starting a tech company you should be creating something with AI in mind.

That being said, some amazing technology was demonstrated. I specifically enjoyed the talk on digital assistants by Dennis Mortensen from x.ai. The talk by SkyCatch CEO Christian Sanz was a window into the future.

What I learned:

  • Apply AI techniques to specific domains.
  • This is a rapidly changing field, keep a lookout for sentient AI tech.

2. Autonomous vehicles are coming

Personally I only attended one talk on the subject of autonomous vehicles. However the sheer number of talks (and maybe one stage) directed at the subject made it clear that this is going to be a big deal in the upcoming years. Previously mentioned Christian Sanz discussed how autonomous vehicles can give a huge benefit on construction sites. Since they can work around the clock in order to level a construction site.

Aside from this specific application my colleagues mentioned the talk by George Holz’ on taking back the ownership of this field by creating open source software for autonomous driving. It might be worthwhile to checkout this talk, as they mentioned is was especially interesting.

What I learned:

  • Open source autonomous driving!
  • Autonomous driving extends beyond on the road driving.

3. Organizations need re-assess the full customer journey

While most organizations spend time on mapping the customer journey they tend to end it with a successful sale of their product. Several attendees addressed being erroneously targeted by hyper targeted ads. For example, whenever you search for a product and you end up buying it, the ads will keep following you around.

Nothing made this issue more apparent than the story of a consumer that sold his electrical vehicle and even after four months kept receiving emails on the battery status of that car. It is essential to beyond the end of the customer journey, it does not end after one sale.

Finally it was good to notice that the omnichannel approach to the customer journey is getting traction. Omnichannel refers to the idea that a customer should get a similar experience regardless of what medium they use to interact with an organization.

What I learned:

  • We need to think about the customer journey beyond the sale of a product.
  • The omnichannel customer journey is finally here and business need to adapt to this principle.
  • This means that businesses should focus on getting their API's in order to ensure all customer data is accessible on any platform or medium. #APIFirst

4. Word of mouth still the best form of (online) marketing

Several speakers addressed the point that no marketing division can be as loud as happy or unhappy customers can be. Make sure your marketing efforts are focused on enabling customers to show their involvement with your brand. One great example was Brendan Kane, who managed to gather 1 million facebook followers in a month by optimizing his posts for optimal likes and shares. He discussed some of the insights he attained when he was working for some major U.S. celebrities.

What I learned:

  • Great marketing departments make sure their messages are amplified through their social followers.
  • It is essential to test your content if you want to make optimal use of your content.

5. When scaling your business, creating a great culture ensures you find the right people!

Seldom have I heard a talk as interesting as the talk on scaling your business by Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan. If you have an interest in scaling your business I recommend you make sure you get to see him talk. One of the points he mentioned that was shared by other was the fact that a great company culture will help scale your company because talented employees will flock to you instead of you having to look for them. I wish I could post a link to Brian's talk but it has not appeared online (yet).

What I learned:

  • Defining a strong company culture facilitates recruitment.
  • Company culture requires commitment.

6. Real world applications for blockchain.

In the run up to this summit it already became apparent that blockchain is without a doubt the most hyped web technology of this year. However during the year some things changed. For the first time there were some quite a few startups with real world applications for blockchain. For me one thing is paramount, it is essential to stay on the lookout for new companies or products that create real world applications with added value with blockchain technology.

Aside from blockchain itself several talks were on the subject of the difference between Token Generation Events and ICO's. Specifically what the difference meant as a means to secure funding.

What I learned:

  • The term ICO can be misinterpreted by the SEC, if the aim is not to be a security, you need to use the term Token Generation Event.
  • Real-world applications for blockchain are proliferating.

Finally there is something big going on with bicycle sharing programs from China. I have attended two talks from companies who have created an app based bicycle sharing platform. Unfortunately they will not be coming to the Netherlands as we have already have high bicycle penetration. :(

In the upcoming weeks I take an in-depth look at one of these trends. Do not forget to give a clap if you liked the list!