The Web Summit in Lisbon gathered 70k+ attendees this year

This year’s Web Summit gathered over 70k participants in Lisbon, which is once again an increase compared to last year. The scale of the event was truly impressive — looking at the main stage you felt almost as if you were attending a rock concert, and there were about a dozen other stages to see as well. While safety measures were taken very seriously, and there were hundreds of volunteers making sure everything went as smoothly as possible, the size of the event still created a lot of challenges for the attendees. The metro was crowded, there were columns of people waiting to enter, and long lines to get something to eat. Unfortunately, there also wasn’t enough space to participate in the most interesting speeches, and while there was streaming provided, it was not what you would expect.

Regardless, the scale of the event provided an opportunity to gather many interesting speakers in one place, and being there you definitely felt like you were at the hub of the IT universe. So let’s take a look at a short overview of what was interesting in the fields of Software as a Service, AI, Mobility and other recent technological developments, which there were definitely plenty of at this year’s Web Summit.

Software as a Service is still a hot topic for investors

Software as a Service seems to be doing very well, and it is becoming a very mature business model with a lot of opportunities to be discovered. Thanks to the multiple companies that chose to go down this path, there are now clear steps and metrics developed that show how to best succeed with SaaS products. It’s not only about reaching product-market fit, which is undeniably a significant factor nowadays, but also about the proper way to scale while still maintaining profitability. There are a lot of examples of companies that started to scale as soon as they fulfilled the market’s needs, and ended up failing by burning too much money on building sale organization. Before you do that, you need to have a few more steps that will prove you can actually scale sales efficiently. One of the interesting hints about scaling sales was to always hire sales representatives in pairs which impacts the results of both hired representatives that learn from each other.

If you want to learn more about SaaS, I definitely recommend the blog written by David Skok from Matrix Partners,who gave very interesting speeches on the topic.

Data is the new Oil and AI is the new Engine

We have entered into an era of a new economy where data driven businesses are becoming the most valuable companies. Even though there is already so many information about how AI is going to change our lives, it looks like we are not quite there yet. Actually, it was quite well compared by Samsung Chief Strategy Officer Young Sohn to the time when people discovered oil. It took us some time before we were able to utilize the full potential of oil by building engines, cars, etc. When it comes to Data and AI, we are at the same stage of development as the oil industry in the 19th century — we are starting initial projects utilizing AI, but in order to allow its full potential, we still need to develop a proper infrastructure for data gathering, storage, preprocessing, computation power, etc. Why is data so important and why is there is so much hope in improving our lives? It is certainly going to change our economy and our lives rapidly in the nearest future. This is especially important in healthcare. While computing power and technology is advancing in accordance to Moore’s law — growing exponentially, at the same time the discovery of new drugs is becoming slower and more expensive over time, which is called Eroom’s Law. According to Young Sohn, the paradox can be overcome thanks to the use of AI in the analysis of the human genome and population health data. Only then will more accurate and safer treatments start to become widely available to consumers at a faster pace.

Are we going to be able to process the amount of data that is yet to come? With the latest development in Quantum Computing by IBM and others, I would say we will. There are already the first prototype projects developed on Quantum Computers, presented by DWave and Volkswagen, which actually brings us to the next interesting topic.

Mobility as a Service and Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous Vehicles are a fact, nobody doubts that anymore, especially since Waymo lately received permission to deploy their fleet in California without a backup driver behind the wheel. The whole automotive industry is preparing for the change and it isn’t only from the perspective of building autonomous and electric vehicles, but also by changing the whole business model from the selling and ownership of cars to mobility as a service which we will buy in the form of a subscription instead. To achieve this there are a lot of changes that have to take place, from regulations to infrastructure to our mentality of possessing a car as well. Cars will become more like an appliance that we use to go from point A to B. Other aspects of this change in mobility include the amount of data that autonomous vehicles will generate (from 500MB to 50TB a year) which will have to then be processed to provide a smooth mobility service. Don’t worry, it will probably be handled by the above mentioned Quantum Computers 😉

Most of today’s software still hasn’t changed

So what is still holding us back from that incredible change of applying AI to everything in our lives? The next interesting topic brought up by Ganesh Bell, the President of Uptake, showed that most software solutions these days are still based on human input, meaning that gathering data required for further processing is still a manual process. Basically the way we build software hasn’t changed from the time of the DOS operating system, we just have fancier interfaces for typing in data. This is where the potential of IoT is revealed, although it is still in the very early stages of development. There is an extensive amount of data produced every day by everything around us, but nobody is listening to and gathering that data, and instead our processes are based on human input. One of the ideas that I have really liked for some time is the Digital Twin concept, which allows you to sit back for a second and look at your company as a process and how you can actually reflect that process in the Digital World. It doesn’t mean that you will replace the people in it, because you still need physical work to be done, but it is rather about how you monitor the progress of that work digitally without having those people physically register that information themselves. By achieving this, you could monitor your business in real time and enable AI to help you improve it, because all the data is already there.

Networking at the Night Summit

Last but not least, during the Web Summit you can experience night events which are meant for networking with other entrepreneurs from around the world. I regret that the organizers did not set different events for people interested in different topics, but I really enjoyed attending a party held by Netguru, one of the biggest digital houses from Poland, to celebrate their 10th birthday. It was great to meet people there and to see that Polish companies are starting to compete with companies around the world with their skills and quality in software development. Congratulations to Netguru’s CEO, Wiktor, whom I had the chance to meet personally and share some feedback about the Web Summit conference mobile app that to my surprise had been developed by Netguru :)

There was so much more going on at the Web Summit — I have only summarized the topics that I found most interesting. In the end is it worth being there? The Web Summit is such a big event that probably everybody will be able to find something interesting for themselves. From my perspective it was a great opportunity to become more up to date with what is going on in the tech world and to get inspired. I think the information we gained at the conference will help Skyrise develop and support our Customers to achieve further success.

If you also participated in the Web Summit this year, let us know what you found the most interesting and feel free to share your experience in the comments below!