Web Summit is the largest technology conference on Earth. It had over 70,000 attendees, 2,500 global journalists, over 250 keynote speakers and thousands of start-ups from all over the world. To say it was as breathtaking as it was fantastic and overwhelming in the beginning would be fair.
I quickly realized the masses of this event when I showed up thirty minutes before the opening ceremonies and was not let into the Altice Arena because it was already at capacity to listen to Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the worldwide web, and Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice President Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives kick things off.
Sitting on the steps outside of the arena watching everything from the big screen they had set up is where I made my first friend. Abulrahman swung in from my blind spot with a big smile and shook my hand. Abdulrahman is a 25-year-old from Lagos, Nigeria, who works for a tech company called Paystack.
Abdulrahman and I set out for night summit after the opening remarks. This is an event they hold along the water with many different restaurants and pubs. They had Chinese, American, Irish, Indian, and many more options to choose from amass the smiles and conversation.
Web Summit commenced the next day, November 5th. This was when I realized the scale of the event. Not only did they have the Altice Arena for many of their keynote speeches, but they also had four pavilions with food trucks separating each for the start-up and networking locations. This was unbelievable and intimidating to walk through the first time. When I sat down for lunch and Michel (from interview 2) came and joined me, I started to relax and open up. The amount of knowledge and innovative ideas everywhere was amazing to be engulfed in.
The list of my favourite moments could be triple digits, but for the sake of the attention spans to this post I will only name my top three.
My third favourite moment was finding the Canadian delegation tent, which was located next to the round table discussions. This was great for two reasons. Number one, it was fantastic to see and talk to so many fellow Canadians all enjoying the event and the open bar the Canadian delegation put on with craft beers from all across Canada. It was also great because after some networking I was privileged to attend the roundtable discussion with tennis star Novak Djokovic’s wife, Jelena. Roundtable discussions were formatted for small groups to discuss with thought leaders in an enclosed and close spaced environment. Jelena, myself, and thirteen others sat in a circle and discussed social entrepreneurship and leadership. These conversations are ones I will remember and take with me for the rest of my business career.
My second favourite moment was rushing to the Q&A stage where I somehow managed to get my question about leadership off to Microsoft president Brad Smith (interview #4). His answer was marvellous and extraordinarily similar to the answer my own boss and mentor, Brett Martin, has given me in the past.
Lastly, my favourite moment was attending Alexis Ohanian’s speech labeled ‘What I Wish a VC Had Told Me’ on the Altice Arena stage. This speech was one I was hesitant to attend because I was wondering around pavilion one checking out new and promising AI start-ups and with the crowds, pavilion one was a 15-minute walk over to the main stage. Once I got there I was instantly engaged. Alexis is an unbelievable speaker and the topics he discussed were similar to the topics I surround my questions around. Some of the key points Alexis touched on were that peers were equally if not more important than mentors, to be relentless with everything you do in life, authenticity not authority, and to operate for the short-term while planning for the long term.
Some notable moments were the interviews I conducted at Web Summit. These were my first of my trip so they were great building blocks and I learned a lot from the participant’s answers. I also really enjoyed Sean Rad, the founder of Tinder’s speech. He talked about the importance of knowing your customers and how to scale a start-up from the beginning of creation.
Of course every event will have some downfalls, but it was hard to find them when it comes to Web Summit. One thing I will say was it was very difficult to move and took a long time to enter into the venue… but I mean with 70,000+ people scattered everywhere that makes sense. I was also sick with the 48-hour flu on day three which was a deterrent for myself.
Web Summit opened my eyes and many doors for the future of this journey. Whether it was knowledge I gained, or connections that will branch out from the original person to people they know, Web Summit was a definite highlight and I would love to go back in a year’s time and see how technology has changed one year from now, as well as how I have developed.