My Web Summit Experience
I came to Dublin on a whim to attend Web Summit after I received an invitation from the Women In Tech initiative. Since I had to give up my plans in Japan and Taiwan to go, I set some goals and plans to make this trip worthwhile. My goals were: 1. meet peers and potential clients or employers 2. see the global startup scene 3. learn new things 4. have fun
Within three years Web Summit has become one of the world’s most influential and international tech events. This year Web Summit 2014 will showcase over 500 world-renowned speakers, 10 stages including the Digital Marketing, Internet of Things, Enterprise, and Builders Summits, 2,000 worldwide startups invited to exhibit their ideas, 200+ satellite events, 1,000 experienced investors, and 800 of the best tech journalists.
Basically, it’s a big international conference with attendees from Fortune 500 companies to seed stage startups. It has an impressive line-up of speakers including Peter Thiel, Phil Libin, Drew Houston, etc.
Inspiring startups and talks
It was my first time meeting startups from all over the world at once. The scope of startups was beyond Silicon Valley or Southeast Asia. There were startups from Japan, Israel, Cyprus, Taiwan, Canada, USA, Netherlands and more countries.
As startup booths were grouped by industry, it was interesting to see startups that tried to solve the same problems from different angles. For example: Hire a local tour guide or get travel recommendations based on mood — both startups provide a personalized and unique travel experience.
Women In Tech
Despite the great line-up, I only managed to go to two talks. My favourite was the Women In Tech discussion, led by Cathryn Posey. The audience raised questions and issues impacting women in technology. There were two discussions that were particularly memorable:
i. a female founder was questioned by a man who said “but I want to talk to the founder” during the conversation. So she said ‘well, I don’t want to talk to you then’. The audience clapped and so did I.
ii. a female founder felt she had to wear jeans and sneakers even though she prefers to dress up. I did the same in hackathons and tech events because I thought it would be easier to meet people and find people to work with if I blend in the 90% male crowd by wearing a startup t-shirt, glasses and sneakers. I know it is more difficult to be a woman in tech so I’m glad other females voiced the same concerns.
Compared to other conferences I have been to, Web Summit had more female speakers and female attendees. Perhaps because of the Women In Tech initiative, I was happy to see that and hope the numbers keep increasing.
The other talk I liked was Drew Houston in conversation with Laurie Segall. They talked about Drew’s story, Dropbox’s plans, the recent news of Dropbox’s partnership with Microsoft, and security. During the discussion of security, Drew answered: everything has tradeoffs and they preferred the usability, simplicity, searchability over the perfect security. I’m not a technical expert on this but his answer made a lot of sense. As a Dropbox user I appreciate his explanation and his hard work of making Dropbox a simple and easy-to-use product.
It was a pity I only attended two talks because the center stage was 15–20 minutes away from the rest of the Web Summit and talks are between 15 minutes to 30 minutes. It took one hour to attend to a talk at the center stage and go back to the startup village. In the end I gave up going to center stage and instead networked with startups and went to workshops.
Another disappointment was the unstable wi-fi connection. When I went to startup booths, many people told me they couldn’t show me a proper demo because of the wifi. Very few startups prepared offline demos or presentation files to solve the issue.
The wifi is not important only for startups, but for attendees as well. Web Summit launched an app so we could search the attendees database and chat with people we wanted to connect with. It was a great initiative so I was keen to use it. I sent messages to 7 people, asking to meet and connect. 4 of them replied and I managed to meet 1 person out of the 4. So the reply rate was 57% and success rate was 14%. Although everyone was busy, I am certain if the wifi was up all the time, I could have met more people with the app. Plus, the app didn’t show message notifications most of the time.
Although I couldn’t use the app, the Night Summit, which was probably the highlight, made up for it. I met people at pub crawls sponsored by Salesforce and Twilio and had some good craic!
A few cool people/startups I met at the conference:
Imoncloud — Service for game developers to create and maintain multiplayer environments and multi-user functionality
Hype — Free instant messages and group chats. Like Whatsapp that doesn’t need internet connection
EcoisMe — Optimize energy use of every home device with EcoisMe’s sensor and dashboard
Tixchart — Flight scanner of low cost airlines across the globe
Code Heartbeat — Automated code review and team performance evaluation
Hugo Welke — Hugo is a UX/UI designer too. We chatted about his design experience, my job search and coffee shops
How I met Jeff: At the Twilio party, I saw Jeff’s name tag (with only his name and “speaker”) so I asked what he was speaking about. We had a good chat and I felt he was a down-to-earth and friendly guy. It was afterwards I found out that he’s the CEO of Twilio! (I am so sorry…)
To summarize, I’m glad to have the chance to attend Web Summit. I experienced the global startup scene and the infectious entrepreneurial atmosphere. It was invaluable to meet like-minded people, make new friends and connections. I also had fun and learned new things. Would I attend Web Summit again? Maybe. What I’m looking forward to more is the Sync Conference which will take place in Taipei, Singapore, or Hong Kong next year!