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StartEDIN's WebSummit 2016 Experience

This month, the beautiful city of Lisbon played host to 53,056 people from 166 countries around the world.

Why you ask?

Well… only for what’s been called “the best technology conference on the planet” – Web Summit.

For those of you that don’t know, Web Summit is a massive 3 day conference that gathers the world’s most disruptive technology innovators together. CEOs, cultural icons, key global leaders, the EU and national governments, start-ups, investors, leading academics and the world’s most iconic companies attend – everyone from the CTO of Facebook to Tinie Tempah is there so it’s a pretty big deal!

And of course StartEDIN was there to see what all the fuss is about and spark up some conversations about our Edinburgh tech community back home.

Hosted at the MEO arena and its 3 connecting pavilions, the event officially kicked off on the evening of Monday 7th with a street party in Lisbon and a welcome message from Web Summit founder, Paddy Cosgrave. As you can imagine the queue stretched far and beyond on the opening night but was well worth the wait for the feeling of entering through the arena door. It was a bit like arriving at a music festival – plenty of hustle and bustle, security guards, lights, loud music and the crowd perfecting the Mexican wave!

Sitting there I felt inspired and part of something big, especially after the announcement that those who couldn’t join us in Lisbon for Web Summit were watching live on Facebook - 4,207,053 viewers to be exact.

Over the 3 days each ticket holder had access to 21 conferences within the arena, each with its own stage, schedule, exhibition area, workshop, networking and more, providing us with the opportunity to learn about every major industry that is touched by technology. There was definitely something for everyone. Have a look at the schedule here for yourself!

Each hall had a series of stands for startups and growing companies. These were separated into sections named ‘Alpha’, ‘Beta’ and ‘Start’. Alpha was for companies with an idea and a potential end product. Beta was for companies that have a product and are growing, and Start was for companies who have developed a customer base and are looking to lead in their industry.

Whilst walking around the many exhibitors I came across the following major themes: women in tech, future society, and the importance of community. I also watched displays of the latest developments in robotics, virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence.  What struck me was that these are no longer ‘products of the future’. Many of the exhibitors at Web Summit made it clear that the future has already arrived.

Another attention grabber at the event was the gender balance. Official figures published earlier this week from Web Summit appeared to back this up, with women making up 42% of the registered attendees.

As you can imagine, there were so many workshops and talks that it was impossible to attend them all. However, many have already been uploaded to Web Summit’s Facebook page and are most definitely worth the watch. Have a look and find discussions from panellists that are of interest to you and have a watch of these two below that show you a glimpse of the opening ceremony – they may give you the feeling that you want to see more.

I would highly recommend attending Web Summit to all techies and entrepreneurs. Web Summit offers the best opportunity to explore the latest trends and developments in tech but don’t expect to see everything - use the app to plan your visit effectively to suit your reason for attending.

As well as this, Web Summit offers an amazing opportunity to network with like-minded people from all corners of the globe via the clever networking feature on their Web Summit app. After the event it was recorded that 1,835,841 messages were sent via the app. Use this to grow your network and connect with people.

To round up I’m going to leave these great statistics from this year’s event here:

  • 42% of the Web Summit attendees were women; the highest at any tech conference
  • 5,081 marathons were walked by Web Summit staff – take a look through the eyes of the staff as they wander through the arena here.
  • 3,700m of fibre cable was used – or in other words, enough to run to the peak of Mount Everest four times
  • There were 34,700 seats set out for attendees to catch talks
  • The event had 17 stages for our 21 redesigned, standalone conferences
  • Web Summit attracted 1,490 startups from across the globe
  • 1,300+ of the world’s most influential tech investors from the world’s leading funds attended
  • 650 Mentor Hour sessions took place where entrepreneurs and investors offered advice to startups
  • 677 world-class speakers
  • 2,000 of the world’s leading media came to tell the stories coming out of Web Summit
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