December 8th, 2017
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I went to the Web Summit, which started on Novebmer 5th, in Lisbon, Portugal.
The Web Summit was very impressive for seeing what the next generation of startups will look like. I can’t think of another event, anywhere, that showcases so many early stage startups. I suppose if I got invited to Demo Day at Ycombinator than that would be better, but my invite got lost in the mail. I saw a bunch of Machine Learning and AI startups that give me a good sense of where the competition is at, which is very useful to me as I plot my next startup.
A lot of the ideas for businesses seem very stupid, and there is a tremendous redundancy, with a dozen startups all chasing the same idea. But there are some interesting ones. One woman is building a company that drives kids to schools, a sort of Uber for children. Her clever idea was to get the government to pay for it. And apparently she’s gotten some contracts from school systems that need help covering sparsely populated rural areas where it doesn’t make sense to send a big bus — a small sedan to pick up 3 or 4 children makes more economic sense.
I think every government in the EU had a booth at the Web Summit. The government of Germany had a booth, but the government of Berlin also had a booth. Also, most of the Mideast governments. I saw a booth for Qatar and one for Dubai. I think they are currently at war? Or at least Dubai joined Saudi Arabia’s blockade of Qatar. But they were all at peace here at the convention. All the governments were on the look out for whatever the next big technology might be.
There were many, many investors walking around, looking for something to invest in.
Still, I was surprised by some of the things that were missing:
1.) Asia. There was a surprising lack of startups from India or China. There were a few Indian outsourcing firms, but in general, Asia was really missing from this event.
2.) Voice controlled… anything. After all the NLP and voice projects I did in 2015 and 2016, I was expecting to see dozens of similar startups. But they weren’t here. Nobody was using the Amazon Alexa or the IBM Watson to do cool stuff with voice or text. Nobody was allowing people to talk to databases. Really surprised there wasn’t more of that. Possibly it’s all become a bunch of closed, competing eco-systems? Possibly the folks working with Alexa go to the Amazon conferences, but not to a general tech conference like this?
3.) Apple. Most of the big tech companies had big booths here, including Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, SAP, NEC, Samsung and others. But Apple was nowhere to be seen.
The Web Summit was a big deal for Lisbon. When I arrived, the airport was full of signs welcoming those of us who’d come for the Web Summit. And on the peak day, more than 70,000 people attended.