If you are not interested into the tech world this big event might pass through you without noticing it, I just hear about it because Web Summit wanted to find a new home, after six years in Dublin they have chosen Lisbon. Paddy Cosgrave, co-founder of the Web Summit, wanted the Irish government to be able to secure a basic plan to keep the event in Dublin. The Web Summit has grown from 400 attendees in 2010 to more than 40.000 attendees in 2015, making this summit the technology conference with the fasted growth. To keep this growth they needed more space, but the organisation also wanted guarantees from the Irish government that they would improve the internet quality, the increase of public transports and a non-manipulation of prices by the hotels. The Irish government gave late answers to Paddy Cosgrave, which have made that the organisation started to look for a new city to host the "Europe’s Largest Technology Marketplace”.
Paris, Amsterdam and Lisbon had shown interest to receive the Web Summit, but a Portuguese startup launched the “Let’s bring the Web Summit 2016 to Lisbon” movement, this campaign brought Lisbon as an option for the Web Summit new home. Paddy had received many emails from the Portuguese entrepreneurial and technological community showing their enthusiasm in hosting such an important event in their city. After contacts between the Portuguese government and the organisation, Lisbon was chosen as the new home for this big global meeting for the years of 2016, 2017 and 2018, with the possibility to extend for more two years. The Portuguese capital and Dublin are the only cities with Web Summit offices, bringing more importance to Lisbon and its new status of an old city with a modern spirit able to host startups and their workers.
The Portuguese government is trying to show the good work that have been made in Lisbon, Porto, Braga and other startups friendly cities in Portugal to the investors in order to attract even more startups and investments for the country. During the four days of Web Summit 2016 the Portuguese capital had all the attention from all world tech community and media, around 2.000 journalists attended the conference, this would be the best publicity that Portugal was looking for. Through its tourism agencies (Turismo de Portugal and Turismo de Lisboa) and its investment agency (AICEP - Portugal Global) the government invested 1.3 million Euros to host the Web Summit, but the national government expects to have a financial feedback of 175 million Euros, which is expected to increase in the next 5 to 10 years, when the networking made through the event will start to give real results for the companies.
The Web Summit started earlier for 200 persons with a Surf Summit in Ericeira, a small Portuguese town well known by surfers. During two days the participants were able to do surf, paddle and do mountain bike in the Portuguese Atlantic coast while they started their networking. On the 7th of November the Web Summit started with the opening ceremony in the Meo Arena (former Pavilhão Atlântico), in the modern area of Lisbon, created to host another big event: the Expo 98 in Parque das Nações. The tickets for the three days costed 900€ each, with last tickets being sold by 3000€, but young people between 16 and 23 years old had the possibility to buy 6.000 tickets for 9€ each.
It was not a night without problems, the internet connection was not that good for such a big event, Paddy Cosgrave had problems to do a Facebook Live stream with his mobile phone, but at the end he realised that he was connected to another Wi-Fi operator. The space in Meo Arena was not enough to fit all the persons who wanted to see the opening ceremony, which left around 3.000 persons outside watching the event through big screens. In the second day many metro stations were crowded, Lisbon is facing some problems with the metro and with more 50.000 people in the city it got even worst. Despite this Paddy said on the second day that bringing the Web Summit to Lisbon was the best decision that he have made, that the problems that they faced this year were not as big as in the last editions in Dublin.
Between 8th and 10th of November, the Web Summit held many conferences in the many pavilions of FIL and Meo Arena, many about music, automotive industry, financial technology, health in the digital age, marketing, robotics, sports, etc. The American stock exchange NASDAQ, the second-largest exchange in the world, was open from Lisbon on the 9th of November, when the world woke up with the news that the republican Donald Trump won the US elections. The Web Summit also have a prize for startups, considered to be the startups Oscar: the PITCH. Two years ago the prize was won by a Portuguese startup (Codacy), but this year the PITCH 2016 was to the Danish startup KUBO chosen between 200 startups. KUBO is a robot with the aim “to find a new and better way to teach children how to code without using a screen or digital interface”, the other two finalists were SoilTron from Cyprus and PapayaPods from Switzerland.
During the three days the Co-founder of Tinder Sean Rad, the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the CEO of Renault-Nissan Alliance Carlos Ghosn, the Director-General of World Trade Organization Roberto Azevêdo, the former President of the United Nations 70th General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft, the CTO of Amazon Werner Vogels, the Secretary General of the Amnesty International Salil Shetty, the former European Commissioner José Manuel Durão Barroso, football players such as Luís Figo, Nuno Gomes and Ronaldinho, the Portuguese and the Luxembourgish Prime Ministers, Andrus Ansip and Carlos Moedas from the European Commission, the Mexican Minister for Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, James Ball a special correspondent from BuzzFeed, Cara McGoogan a reporter from The Telegraph, the Co-Founder of Refugee OpenWare Dave Lein and the CEO of the Leonardo Di Caprio Foundation Terry Tamminenwere some of the 663 speakers (31 were Portuguese) that during the event have spoken to 53.056 attendees with tickets. 7000 CEOs and 15.000 companies also participated in the first edition of Web Summit in Lisbon, with a record of 42% of women attendees. The Web Summit organisation had the help of many volunteers, and for the ones who could not attend the event it was possible to watch the conferences through Facebook Live, there were 4.207.053 people watching it online.
With 7.787 persons attending, Portugal was the country more represented in the Web Summit 2016, following the United Kingdom (7.486), Germany (4.175), Ireland (4.058), United States of America (3.764) and France (2007), with more than one thousand there were Netherlands, Poland, Denmark, Switzerland, Spain and Italy. Three days of intensive networking between the attendees from 166 different nationalities, there was also the opportunity for startups to show their work in three stages for the investors but the networking was also made before with the Surf Summit and also after the conferences. As usual the Web Summit organised the Night Summit for relax and enjoy the nightlife, where it was possible to meet CEOs that like most of the attendees were just looking for a nice talk and a good investment. In Dublin was during a conversation in an Irish Pub that the UBER founder found a 37 million USD financing, Portuguese pubs also wanted to proportionate such important meetings so they organised some exclusive parties just for Web Summit attendees. They had also the opportunity to improve their knowledge with the Web Summit Community Meetups held in 30 different places around Lisbon with talks about, for exemple, the foodtech, social commerce, fintech, women in tech, green entrepreneurship. There were also Web Summit Running Tours to show Lisbon to the attendees while they kept their train on.
The newspaper The Guardian refers to the Web Summit has the “Davos for geeks” and also puts Lisbon as the next European tech capital because of its energy and charming hills, good weather and low rents. The Bloomberg calls the Portuguese capital the Europe's San Francisco because of its red suspension bridge, cable cars and nearby surfing locations, while the Wired puts Lisbon directly in the third place of the “The Hottest Startup Cities” list. The Web Summit was the turning point that Portugal was looking for to place the country as one of the most attracting places for tech investment, but the Portuguese government also used the opportunity of having more than 50.000 persons in Lisbon to promote the touristic aspects of Portugal to all attendees. The Sunset Summit,at the Portugal Pavilion, gave the opportunity during two days to all the guests to have contact with the culture, music and food from all Portuguese regions.
The co-founder of Web Summit said that the event can grow until 80.000 attendees next year, Paddy and his team are looking for new ideas to improve even more the next edition, they already started to sell tickets for the 2017 edition. Even if the Web Summit leaves Lisbon in 2018 this major event of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship will never forget Lisbon, not only because the city helped them to give a bigger jump, but also because of its good environment. Lisbon and Portugal will have to be very thankful to Web Summit for putting the country in the tech world, while the country still recovering from its economic crisis. Portugal showed one more time that this tiny country in the Western Europe is able to receive big events and delight all people with their hospitality. Now that Portugal has shown their hype characteristics, the country needs to ensure that is able to keep a tech hub in the Portuguese capital. The Portuguese people will have two more years to convence investors that Portugal is the best place where they can invest their money and put their startup.