Now that Web Summit is over, I’ve recuperated from Night Summit and sifted through my work mails, I can finally use the Friday afternoon hours to reflect on the past three days. So here’s my Web Summit 2014 Recap.
Was it worth it?
Let’s get the important part over with first: Was it worth it? Yes.
The Web Summit 2014 was ginormous with more than 20.000 attendees, 11 sub-summits (counting the Surf and Food Summit), too many speakers to count and a gazillion start ups presenting. The three days were exhausting in a good way. I made a ton of new and great contacts, reconnected with the usual suspects and generally had an inspiring and fun time.
The people and companies I met were truly international and connecting was easy peasy. Unlike some of the other more traditional conferences, I felt the set up of the Summit really promoted networking. You always got to talking to someone random and new on your way from the Town Hall to the Central Stage (which was a five-ish minute walk) or vice versa and just meandering through the start up displays in the different halls I ended up having a lot of great and insightful conversations.
The size of the Summit made for a good mix of people, but also led to an information overwhelm. My strategy? Get my bearings Tuesday, make a plan, come back Wednesday and Thursday and hit the start ups and presentations that I really want to see. Sounds like a solid plan, right?
The Problem: Start ups only displayed one day each… So while I thought it might be semi-managable to hit all the interesting ones from Tuesday in the following two days, the Tuesday ones were gone Wednesday and getting all the Wednesday ones in on Wednesday was an all-day task which left no real time for presentations. And when I did sit down for a couple of presentations on Thursday I felt I was missing out on all the hidden gem start ups that were only presenting their ideas that day. In the end I opted for talking to people instead of listening to the presentations.
Another learning: While you’d expect only Enterprise start ups in the Enterprise Summit, they were mixed and you had to wander around with an always open eye to not miss out on interesting people and concepts that might be displaying in one of the other areas.
A rather sad lesson learned was that the Web Summit actively differentiates between bloggers and media. I was there with a blogger ticket and bloggers did not get access to the media lounge and did not get food vouchers (at least I didn’t at registration). Bloggers did have access to one of the upper areas in the Town Hall which was called “Investor lounge” to charge devices, do interviews and write. For a Web Summit to actively make a “second-class media” distinction between traditional media and bloggers is sad and a little backwards, in my opinion.
While the Irish weather absolutely held up until yesterday afternoon (where the sponsors provided rain ponchos), it’s always a good idea to play onion and bring enough layers. Cloakrooms were around aplenty, they were free and didn’t really have long queues.
The Start Ups
I talked to sooooo many. There were a LOT of me-too’s and a lot of “we’re like…. just better”. spotlinks is the new about.me. effektiv is “IFTTT for enterprise”. Or Peekinto, which is a video sharing network that allows you to request 12 second video “peeks” by location/geography, that seemed like a mix between Vine, Instagram video and Slingshot. Whese is a network built around the question “What are you doing right now?” and encourages users to share all the things: stuck in traffic, watching TV, having dinner, bored at the office or waiting for the bus. They want to re-imagine the timeline. Like Facebook, just better?
I can’t predict if any of these will actually break through, but there were a few that really stuck with me as being fun, intelligent concepts.
- Hype. It’s a messaging app for when you’re off the grid. No network connection, no wifi. We would have absolutely needed that at the Summit (don’t get me started on the wifi there… ;). It’s for people within close proximity of each other, like a football stadium or events like the Summit. It has a few cool extras like voice and image filters and also shows you people outside of your contact list that are nearby.
- LokLok. A lockscreen messaging app (for Android only at the moment) that lets you create lockscreen boards with your friends or just your significant other. You can draw, send pictures or draw on pictures. The lockscreen automatically updates without pesky notification sounds. You start your phone, there’s the new message. Or picture. Or drawing. Or drawing on a picture. I downloaded it this morning and forced my brother to test it out with me – so far we’re having a blast. It feels Slingshot-y, but without the tediousness behind it. Their beta already has around 300.000 users and has been live for 4 months.
- ThinkGuide. I didn’t actually see a demo, but talked to Daniel about the concept. It’s an internal knowledge sharing and collaboration tool. Going in with the clear premise of supporting transparency and knowledge sharing (and not just being “social”) is refreshing. According to Daniel, the tool will cut down ramp up time for new employees or employees taking up new roles significantly. Their website is still very rudimentary. But the focused approach behind their tool is interesting.
- Swoodle. A very cool and promising phone app that facilitates easy viewing, collaboration on and sign off of documents. You can also call people, chat with them and do all kinds of other fun stuff. It has a simple and inviting design. You can connect it with Dropbox, SharePoint, Google Docs, etc., work on documents real time and share back to your chosen work platform. The company behind Swoodle is DisplayNote Technologies, who already have presentation software DisplayNote on the market.
- TalkLife. A network for young people with mental health problems to get and give help. This network seems to actually make an impact with the scores of Tumblr girls and boys that struggle with anorexia, cutting, bulimia, depression and other illnesses. Through intelligent data analysis by Microsoft Research and the MIT, the network will be able to predict when a user is nearing a self-harm phase and will try to intervene and offer support. They’ve not advertised and already have more than 100.000 users on the platform.
- ThankFrank. ThankFrank is a community that is based around asking and giving advice (“What’s a good hotel in Dublin?”). When someone says “Thanks” for the “frank” advice, they click a button that then triggers a charitable donation by a sponsor. This is a great and simple combined marketing and CSR tool for companies with the added social benefit for users of ThankFrank to actually get sound advice.
- TripFlr. TripFlr seems to be an even better customized Tripadvisor. And it’s way prettier. You can set up city profiles with your favourite spots as well as get recommendations in new cities from people that TripFlr thinks are a good personality match for you.
It was really great getting to know so many fantastic people, hear about the amazing projects and feel that the digital scene is alive, well and kicking into the future. If anyone is still around this weekend and wants to hang, let me know: @_42ponies / @mrsatoz.