We have no regrets applying to the ALPHA program at the Web Summit targeting early stage companies. We were happy to have made the cut, and we are happier that we actually plucked ourselves from operations and took off to Lisbon. I thought to share a few observations from the three and half days I spent at the Summit with two of my colleagues.
A B2B marketplace for sure
The Summit is an excellent B2B marketplace for all of us working in and with technology. Edtech did not have a significant share of focus, highlight, or activities. Maybe Edtech companies congregate more in their industry-specific conferences. Nevertheless and since it was our first time at the Summit, we made sure to take advantage and connect with the few other edtech companies that we were able to reach. We also met with companies with other verticals where we explored ways to complement and support our product.
Connecting with investors takes a lot of preparation
We thought we were ready and we weren’t. We reached out to investors too late in the process. A month in advance is not good enough. Investors are individuals in high demand. They are constantly bombarded with requests. At the summit it’s sixty times worse, as there are 60,000 attendees with a thousand investors I understand.
We know that courting investors takes time and follows a process. Are they interested in your industry? At what stage do they invest? For example, one investor lists it clearly: “Investments 25–125 million USD.” However, the Summit allows for unconventional channels to kick in. The Summit app is one good tool. The coffee islands make coffee king and are very engaging areas. Waiting in line for your turn meant bumping into someone with a “investor” name tag. It’s a place to randomly meet people or continue a conversation with someone you have seen before.
Internal team building
We made sure we used the Summit as for internal reflection and team building. Getting out of the daily not-so-routine yet very busy days is a very good thing. It allowed for a realignment of strategy, discovering new paths, ironing out misunderstandings, planning next steps, coming up with new ideas, and solidifying old ones. A nice dinner with a Portuguese glass of wine takes you a long way in bonding and creative thinking. Discussions go from operational choices on the day-to-day actions to “the meaning of life and the existence of God.”
When a country comes together
The Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Costa, gave an opening speech saying how the Summit puts Lisbon at the heart of all Global debates. He went on to welcome everyone present in Lisbon, calling it a “natural place for business”, being a meeting place for all cultures across the world. The Mayor of Lisbon, Fernando Medina, carried on with the message, that Lisbon and all the cities in Portugal are open cities to business. Later on, the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo Sousa, congratulated everyone who has made it to the Summit and mentioned that they are part of a revolution here, “You are transformers” he added. Towards the closing of that night he shared his hopes for Lisbon to be the meeting point not only for this year, but 2019 and 2020 as well.
I love it when I see a whole country come together with a welcoming and encouraging message. The message was clear from the top civil servants, to the organizers, the Uber drivers, the AirBnB hosts, the restaurant waiters, and the little stickers on the metro station maps telling “Web Summit” attendees how to get there. They know it’s good for their city, it’s good for their country; and it makes them feel good that they are contributing to positive change in the world.