Web Summit: Thoughts from a first timer Posted at 0:00, Wed, 28 October 2015 in Industry Insights

In November I spent 5 days in Dublin in the middle of arguably the largest gathering (and rowdiest, compliments of the free Guinness at the venue) of Tech-focused professionals on the planet: Web Summit. There were more people, more speaking sessions, more pitches, and more hustle and bustle than one could imagine.

First and foremost Irish entrepreneur and co-founder of WebSummit Paddy Cosgrave put on an amazing event, with over 30,000 attendees and 1,000 speakers descending to Dublin over 4 days!

I had a great time but saw so many people looking ‘lost’ and struggling to tackle the sheer size and undertakings of the event.

Because of this I’ve made a list of a few observations from my first time there, hopefully it provides some insight for people thinking of going next year, and an understanding of what it’s like on the ground.

1. Hustle.
The buzz in the Summit was unreal, it was inspiring to see the passion. You could see people sneaking into the investor lounge trying to get in front of a VC or two; I even got given an elevator pitch while standing in an actual elevator! If you’re not there to hustle I wholly suggest just going as an attendee. You’ll get so much out of it and sometimes it’s not worth it to pay for a booth.

2. Prep your idea
While most ideas were incredible and inspiring, I felt that some of the pitches were not yet fleshed out. This may have been the concept itself, or the target audience being too niche. A pitch for a social network for imaginary friends left me scratching my head. There were a few that left me asking “are these people really dedicating their life to creating an app which allows people to more efficiently shop online while driving?”. (I’ll be the one eating my words when this takes off).

With under-developed ideas, it made me wonder why they were being pitched. While there is overwhelmingly a lot of good that comes from the Summit I’d caution people to think about what stage they are at with their idea and what they want to get from the event. I think that if you go to the Summit expecting client acquisition and you still haven’t figured out your product then you need to reconsider. I’d be keen to hear your thoughts about when an idea is ready to be pitched.

3. The most widely used word of the summit: Bubble.
I’d bet that the word ‘bubble’ was used at every fireside chat (and there were hundreds of those). No one knows whether its actually coming or when, but it’s certainly the main topic of conversation.

4. Dublin lives up to its reputation of being full of good people who love Guinness.
The city was incredible, the nightlife was unreal, and the concierge at the hotel said it is like that all the time! With so many bar crawls, dinners and private parties, make sure to get your sleep and spend time finding out who is there and what to do with your evenings.

There is incredible networking to be done at night if you’re organised enough to be where the action is. Through a bit of prior-planning I had the chance to hang with my old boss, friend, and speaker Andy McLoughlin one night, which was awesome.

5. Learn from the masters
On the topic of prepping for the event, check out the Web Summit Hacks. I got a few blast emails from companies that used the event as a tool for mass marketing to 40,000 people that they knew would all be at the event, looking to set demos or get meetings.

6. Globalisation is happening, fast.
Even just last year, I remember hearing a panel of VC’s saying that they preferred to focus their investments in certain geographies. At the summit, through dozens of conversations with investors, this is simply not the case. Additionally, any company of >10 people already has an expansion plan to push into new geographies. Where you live and incubate your company is only confining if you choose it to be. It’s only a matter of time before Silicon Valley becomes one of many top places to be, not the only place. This is more of an observation than anything, but a pretty cool one in my mind.

7. On that topic of observations: the future will be out of this world.
It’s not just the emergence of VR, hover boards and self-driving cars. On-demand and sharing economies, and the IoT are already melding together and creating some amazing opportunities. I’m imagining soon living in a world where a robot preps my dinner in a self-monitoring oven and delivers it to me on Mars.

The incredible thing about the Web Summit is that you can get out of it whatever you put in. Be realistic with your expectations of what should come of it and then get to work making that happen. Don’t get caught thinking that all the VCs will just get swept up in your idea regardless of where it’s at – develop it, develop it, develop it.

On a personal note, it was incredible seeing so many passionate people. I’m not a techie and don’t know the first thing about coding, but I do get excited thinking about how many problems people are solving. If you want to help end child hunger, there actually is an app for that.

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