Web Summit is the Everest of tech conferences. Its importance can’t be overstated and with more than 1200 speakers talking over four days, there’s almost nothing that isn’t covered. Artificial Intelligence, sustainability, machine learning, data, political climates, future societies, customer experience, gaming, sport, growth, innovation. It’s endless.
70,000 attendees will flock to Lisbon for this year’s edition, along with the speakers including the likes of Edward Snowden (President of Freedom of Press Association), Katerine Maher (CEO of Wikipedia), Brad Smith (President of Microsoft), Kate Brandt (Chief Sustainability Officer of Google), David Eun (Chief Innovation Officer of Samsung) and even the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo. Given the breadth, status, expertise, and experience of those talking, it’s clear that Web Summit 2019 is continuing to push the boundaries of its mission; bringing the best together to share the most important tech ideas of today.
Ahead of Web Summit 2019, we’ve selected some of our favorite talks from their extraordinary schedule. Get inspired.
1. Protecting the vulnerable: How tech can help refugees
Mike Walton (Chief of Digital Engagement, UNHCR), George Papandreou (Former Prime Minister of Greece) and Steve Clemons (Editor-in-chief, The Hill)
The European migrant crisis in 2015 increased the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide to the highest level since World War II. Whilst its coverage in the media has fallen to near non-existence, this catastrophe continues. Pressing questions need answering; why has the tech industry not done more and what can it do to help. Social responsibility is of today and tech can take action.
2. eSports: Roadmapping the future
Ari Segal (CEO, Immortals Gaming Club), Sergey Portnov (CEO, Parimatch), Bruce Stein (CEO, aXiomatic) and Rob Harris (International sports journalist, The Associated Press)
eSports is no joke. It’s rapid growth to a billion-dollar industry is only the start of more to come. People are increasingly aware of it, more people watch it than ever before and as technology develops its potential swells. What’s next?
3. Is collaboration killing us?
Chris Farinacci (COO, Asana)
It’s a controversial question. As we become increasingly connected, it’s important to question this fundamental idea that underpins so much of what we do. Collaboration is implemented everywhere, yet productivity has in fact declined. Our attention is always being pulled in different directions and this has created a rift between the optimistic idea at the heart of collaboration and the actual results. How can technology help?
4. To scale or not to scale?
Sarah Nahm (Founder, Lever), Harry Glaser (CMO, Sisense), Ariel Cohen (CEO, TripActions Labs B.V.) and Bob Moore (Co-founder & CEO, Crossbeam)
Conventional thought would say bigger is better. Most entrepreneurs want to know how they can scale up their business and how to tackle the long, challenging road ahead when they leave the startup world. But few ask if they should scale up in the first place.
5. The code: Business secrets from Silicon Valley
Margaret O’Mara (Author, University of Washington Department of History)
Silicon Valley is the heartland of the tech industry. It has the highest density of tech companies in the world with startups being born sometimes on a weekly basis. But what are the reasons for its success? Mindset? Collaboration? Location? How has it built the leading tech ecosystem, and can it be replicated?
6. Blockchain: The use cases
David Wachsman (Founder, Wachsman), David Chaum (Founder & CEO, Digital Cash), Corentin Denoeud (CEO, Blockchain Studio) and Noelle Acheson (Director of Research, CoinDesk)
Blockchain has massive potential, and it’s being talked about by more and more people. Big companies are taking notice, even countries. It still, however, holds a lot of uncertainty, and there are some major challenges that lie in its way; political, behavioral, social and practical. But its potential and its creative possibilities are more than exciting, so we all need to pay attention.
7. Why startups need corporate VC to thrive
Gen Tsuchikawa (VP & Chief Investment Manager , Sony Corporation), Deborah Magid (Director of Strategy, IBM Venture Capital), Chris Bartlett (SVP Corp Development & Head of Verizon Ventures, Verizon Ventures) and Alex Irwin-Hunt (Global Investment Reporter, fDi Magazine (Financial Times)
Startups need capital for growth, and there is a labyrinth of options when it comes to raising it. With speakers from VP & Chief Investment Manager for Sony, Director of Strategy of IBM Venture Capital and others, they’ll expand on why they think venture capital can be a powerful choice, as well what embracing this approach can give startups apart from just money.
8. The end game: Making purpose real
Frank Cooper (CMO, BlackRock)
Having a purpose outside of making profit is central to any business, and everyone is keen to shout about their own. It’s often proudly paraded at the forefront of marketing efforts, but sadly the reality is that few companies hold it that close. Times are changing though, and genuine purpose is becoming a more important factor for those who want to achieve long term success. Purpose is powerful, learn how to use it.
9. Breaking news in a video-first world
Dinara Toktosunova (CEO, Ruptly), Juan Branco (Legal Adviser to Julian Assange, Wikileaks) and Sara Fischer (Media Reporter, Axios)
Videos are only growing in significance, and with more platforms integrating video content every day, it’s an essential tool for companies of all sizes. More than that, our world craves rich, immersive content delivered at speed, and video seems to be able to do that better than most.
10. Rebuilding trust in tech
Ro Khanna (Representative, US House of Representatives), Brad Smith (President, Microsoft) and Karen Tso (Anchor, Squawk Box, CNBC)
Among other things, Web Summit 2019 is an important platform to look at the bigger picture, and to talk about movements happening across the entire industry. Digital privacy, personal information and transparency are three issues that have led to a concerning drop in trust towards tech in recent times. The industry has to rebuild this trust, to show consumers that tech can be a force of good and one that doesn’t operate in the shadows. It’s a problem that has to be tackled, for both individual and collective growth.
11. It takes a village to build a city
Micah Kotch (Managing Director, URBAN-X), Pasquale Romano (President & CEO, ChargePoint), Ro Gupta (CEO, Carmera), Carrie Shuler (Founder, Stealth Mode) and Steve Clemons (Editor-in-chief, The Hill)
Smart cities are all about bringing infrastructure and technology together to create better urban environments for those who live there. As technology improves, so do the possibilities in this field. What will the city of the future look like, and how can you play a part in their development?
12. How to build digital relationships with your customers
Sara Varni (Chief Marketing Officer, Twilio), Mada Seghete (Co-founder, Branch) and Don Clark (Freelance Contributor, The New York Times)
Customer relationships are everything, but in the digital world it’s often harder to start and maintain heartfelt connections. It needs much more than simply a channel for customers to get in touch with you. Fruitful relationships require work, and the benefits of them for business and customers are huge.
13. The future education powered by AI
Derek Haoyang Li (Founder, Squirrel AI Learning)
Education isn’t always the first thing you think about when you hear ‘Artificial Intelligence’, but it’s a field that is calling for attention. Imagine the time an AI could dedicate to each student, and how personalised that teaching would be. Could it create the perfect education?
14. The difference between a founder and a leader
André Penha (Co-founder & CTO, QuintoAndar), Alex Chung (Founder, GIPHY) and Bedy Yang (Managing Partner, 500 Startups)
Being a founder and a leader are very different, even if the terms crossover sometimes. Perhaps it’s because of this often-confused role that businesses don’t make use of their respective potentials. Or maybe it’s because founders think they automatically become leaders, and don’t take the time to step back and look.
15. Cash is dead, what’s next to go?
Nikolay Storonsky (Founder & CEO, Revolut), Anne Boden (CEO, Starling Bank) and Felix Salmon (Chief Financial Correspondent, Axios)
Fintech awareness and adoption are at an all-time high. It’s made for the modern-day user (and business) whilst traditional means such as cash just don’t seem relevant anymore. But because fintech is rocking the established way of doing things, people are often sceptical, and there are questions as to where it will go next.
16. Abandon your black mirror: Conquering tech addiction
Justin McLeod (Founder & CEO, Hinge), Dame Til Wykes (Professor of Clinical Psychology & Rehabilitation, Kings College London) and Katie Collins (European correspondent, CNET)
Arguably, those at Web Summit 2019 need to hear this the most, but it’s applicable to everyone. Even if technology can improve our lives in countless ways, it’s clear that it degrades our lives elsewhere. How many people are not looking at their phone on the train? How many dinners do people spend on Instagram? Perhaps, however, there is another way. Could tech actually help people get off their phones and into the world outside?
17. How to build and scale products for and with users
Chris Slowe (CTO, Reddit)
Reddit has some of the most opinionated users in the world. It’s a vast network of people saying what they think and as a result, users are the centre of product development. And Reddit seem to have hit the nail on the head; product development teams aren’t just those employed by the company, it’s everyone who uses a product.
18. Health in space: The final frontier
Scott Solomon (Evolutionary Biologist, Rice University), Marianne Brandon (Clinical Psychologist, Wellminds Wellbodies LLC), Ian Robertson (Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Co-Director Global Brain Health Institute, Trinity College Dublin) and Paul Nuki (Senior Editor, Global Health Security, The Daily Telegraph)
Human health has come a long way since we dwelled in caves. And the next leap is thinking about is what human health would look like if lived in space. This is one of the most furthest looking talks at Web Summit 2019, but since technology will play a central role in this shift, and even if we might be still some way off, this is the time to start dreaming big.
19. Keeping open source open
Rashmi Gopinath (Managing Director, M12), Katharina Borchert (Chief Innovation Officer, Mozilla) and John Rampton (Writer, Entrepreneur Magazine)
Is open source the way forward? It seems so, and it seems part of the bigger move to creating productive, thriving ecosystems where everyone benefits, rather than keeping things private. And for developers, it’s a chance to encourage healthy competition, continuously improve code and drive innovation. It’s a win-win isn’t it?
20. The technology fallacy
Jacqui Canney (Chief People Officer, WPP), Greg Baxter (Chief Digital Officer, MetLife), Gerald Kane (Visiting Scholar, Harvard Business School) and Paul Michelman (Editor-in-chief, MIT Sloan Management Review)
Web Summit 2019 is all about technology; how it can do this, how it can do that. Coming away from an event with such magnitude, it’s easy for your brain to be swimming in potential tech ideas for months to come. Some, however, think that when you approach your next disruptive tech concept, you should really focus on people, rather than technology.