Events

My experience at Web Summit 2016

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Hi all! This post sums up a very intense week in Lisbon with Web Summit taking place here for the first time and what I experienced from it! If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed a photo takeover. Now let’s see my written thoughts about it.

SPOILER ALERT: This post is huge, please read it calmly or jump over to the sections that you like the most ūüėČ

The preparation…

Before I knew that Web Summit was coming to Lisbon, I had heard quite vaguely of it. I knew that it had a lot of talks with thought and industry leaders and plenty of startups but not much more. Anyway I was curious to go in this year of my tech rebirth. As soon as I heard that you could apply to volunteer and attend the event FOR FREE after the shifts I tried my luck. Fortunately, I was one of the 2500 selected volunteers from diverse countries. Even better, I got selected to help with my first option team, the Startup Team. My sister also applied and also got the Startup Team and the same schedule of shifts as me, despite the fact she got assigned to a different task, which was quite cool. I knew about this since late June so the experience started quite early.

I also started going to my first Volunteer Meetups in Lisbon in September, where the Volunteer Program Manager, Sofia Pires, started to explain us more about the event, our duties and what we could expect. The great Domino’s Pizza dinners that followed were not shabby haha. We started communicating with other volunteers through the Facebook groups, but let’s fast forward to the week of the event.

I had my specific Startup Team briefing on November 5th and got to know better the venue at FIL – Feira Internacional de Lisboa and met the team managers. Moreover, I received my volunteer accreditation from other volunteers and my t-shirt. The best part was staying to chat with other volunteers after our meetup and start knowing my colleagues from all over the world.

Opening ceremony

This was the part that unfortunately didn’t go as expected. I had arrived early but due to a misunderstanding related to single day tickets that a friend had that we lost our place in the queue. When we came back it was already too late and the venue was full already and nobody was able to get in. A lot of people¬†couldn’t get in as well and I think the part that only 15000 people would be able to get in could have been better communicated. Anyway after this bad situation we went to have a delicious hamburger at h3 and we were on a better mood afterwards.

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Day 1 – Busy on duty, doping, perserverance and bloggers!

My shifts began at the quite painful hour of 7:30 AM, which implied getting up at 5:15 so that I could catch my train at 6:13 AM. Nice one living 45 minutes by train away from the venue! Despite having slept quite badly, there was free coffee at the volunteer hub, where I met with the other Information Point B volunteers. I was assigned with other three volunteers to the ALPHA Startups in Advertising, Content and Marketing. My colleagues were great: two other Portuguese girls (one designer and one Industrial Management and Engineering student) and a British startup owner in the area of music technology. My shift lasted 6h and we were responsible by welcoming the startups and check on them. We helped with much more, such as redirecting attendees to the startups they wanted to see, showing them the way to stages, app issues and even where to find a bathroom. With all this, the morning went by quite fast.

I grabbed my lunch really quickly to start enjoying the talks. I started by going to the SportsTrade stage to listen to former Olympic Silver Medalist Allison Wagner and Olympian Nikki Dryden commenting on how technology can help defeat doping. Did you know¬†that in the Rio 2016 Olympics the doping tests were all over the place, with half of the tests planned not made because athletes could not be located? Can you imagine this? The athletes have very little power in the community and the fact that, in amateur sports, the difference between a gold and a silver medal can mean having a career or not, makes some succumb to pressure. Allison shared her pain that, had doping tests been properly carried out in her time (20 years ago), she would have won more gold medals and hold a World Record. The utilization of wearables to track the athletes parameters can be of great help since the surprise anti-doping controls and frequent blood tests are highly invasive for the athletes’ privacy.

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I spent the rest of the afternoon in the Startup University stage. I’ll be a bit more brief and make a catch up of the talks. In “The Art of Hacking a Conference”, the speakers made a very important reminder that conferences should not only be to gather investment and stalks investors with this purpose. Other purposes should be to make market intelligence, get feedback and find which investors fit in the culture you want for the company.

Later on, Brian Norton, the CEO of Future Finance (the first private loan company for students) spoke about perserverance and how being in a startup is like entering the wilderness. He associated 5 main facts of the wilderness but what was the best for me was that it is dark and hard, but all old things were once new and we have to keep on believing. Fellow students, we know about this right? ūüėČ

Finally, a panel of lovely ladies with actress and activist Shailene Woodley, pro surfer Anastasia Ashley and manager Beth Ferreira talked about how to rise to the challenges that came in their careers. The talk in the end was a bit more turned towards how to inspire others and the power of activism in our daily lifes. One thing that really struck me was when Shailene reminded us that, after living in India, we should not assume that what improves life quality in developing countries is what we value. We should ask them instead what do they need for a better quality of life and what can we do to help them in our countries. Anastasia also mentioned that a huge challenge for her was the lack of female role models in the world of surfing when she started, combined with the loss of her mother at a very early age. This reminds us that we are responsible for paving the way for others and becoming role models.

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I still had a little time to watch a pitch competition in Stage 3. This was the stage dedicated to advertising, e-commerce, software development and big data. I only got to watch the first 3 pitches and it’s amazing how you learn from others! I also checked out some interesting startups. Stay tuned on Twitter where I will reveal the best startups I saw! Or at least the most appealing to me haha.

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Web Summit was also full of community meetups that you could join in the nightlife areas of Lisbon. I chose the Bloggers Meetup (of course! Even though I had 4 I wanted to attend at the same time) and met about 10 other bloggers in A Viagem, a bar in Cais do Sodré. We chatted a bit about our experiences and got great advice, it was one of the highlights of Web Summit for me!

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Portuguese musician¬†√ČME was rehearsing for his live act

Day 2 –¬†Evangelize, robots and Trump

Day 2 was November 9th. I woke up again at 5:15 AM to learn that Trump was leading in the US Election votes. This was unexpected by all of us and we were together at the Volunteer Hub when Donald Trump became US President-Elect. During the whole day everything had something to do with Brexit and Trump. There was a huge confusion about the future of course, but let’s not get into that. I got the same role as the first day. We had less work, since most people were already settled in the event. The first hours were the busiest since we had to check all the stands. Some startups from the day before had left some belongings that we had to clear up.

After I finished my shift there were plenty of things to watch. I was really curious about the talk of Bishop Paul Tighe on the Catholic Church in the Digital World and I thought his ideas interesting. He stated that the Church has to differ from political parties utilization of social media. The latter may engage into reinforcement of ideas of those who believe in the parties’ ideologies already, while the ideal approach would be to engage in a respectful debate with everyone, believers or not. Let’s hope this is the case everytime as it should.

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Today this was the day of robots. But before this, I arrived to Centre Stage in time to watch the Nasdaq Opening Bell. This coincided with the end of a talk about the immediate future of Venture Capital that was aired live to Times Square. Fortunately the stock market evolution that day wasn’t shown.

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Now talking about robots! The first robot I saw was Sofia, brought by Ben Goertzel from Hanson Robotics. This seems to be the most similar robot to a human ever! She wants to have civil rights and the ability to vote and to be US President someday. Her expressions have a quite advanced range and it’s awesome how far we’ve come in this area. Ben said he already had strange requests, like a guy who wanted to donate his brain to science. In another talk we got to know Pepper, a cute robot who looks like Casper the Friendly Ghost. He was brought to us by Rodolphe Gelin from SoftBank Robotics Holdings. This talk was very focused on the possibility that robots will take over all human jobs, a possibility that Rodolphe thinks will not be that close. In his view, even to replace a plumber, the amount of complexity that a human hand has is very hard to replicate. Another point was related to the emotional intelligence needed to replace a doctor for instance. What are your thoughts on this?

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Day 3 – Comedy, preaching, hustling and dancing!

Last shift was even calmer than day 2! A somewhat nostalgic feeling started kicking in when the shift finished and I was grateful for all the people I met and having worked alongside incredible people. As a volunteer, I feel it’s my responsibility to make everyone feel welcome and I feel that most of the ones I met were on the same mission, which was great!

Let’s move over to the talks. I forgot my camera in my bag, poor me, but I want to make a quick overview of the favorite ones. To begin with, Joe Wade from Don’t Panic London gave a very enjoyable talk on Comedy and Creativity. Did you notice that most ads nowadays try to evoke emotions, many times sad? And the number of award winning movies that are drama as opposed to fun movies? Sometimes advertising companies go a bit overboard on this and try to be emotional just for the sake of it, while really fun ads would create a better positive association with the brand and the product. However it’s hard to be really funny, so talent should be funneled to this area.

The next talk was again with Bishop Paul Tighe, this time in debate with Marian Goddell, the founder of the Burning Man project. While most attendees of Burning Man are not religious, Marian says that the festival is seen a bit like a religion to attendees and that everyone is looking for “something more”. Our main human essence is to love and be loved and we should spread these principles even through social media. I also learned that the 10 guiding principles of Burning Man have some parallelism with the 10 commandments of the Bible. Finally, with members of two really particular communities, the requirements to inspire a community were mentioned. Marian mentioned that, in order to form a community (something that we, bloggers, also aim to), we have to make ourselves available to others, regardless what the community is.

Last talk was from the Music Notes stage with musician Tinie Tempah and Dumi Obirota, Tinie’s cousin and partner at Disturbing London. The talk was titled “The Art of the Hustle”. It was nice to learn about an innovative business model in the area of music, where they¬†gather artist management, record label, apparel and branding in one place. A big lesson by Dumi that makes any entrepreneur think is “beggars can’t be rejecters”. Are you begging too much? The presence of technology is very important, especially in rap, since it targets mostly a young crowd that loves all the technology updates. Tinie said he tries to communicate often with his fans through social media but that he always tries to not overexpose himself, otherwise he would fall into an undesirable path. Finally, Dumi said that the biggest hustler ever is Donald Trump, because you don’t even know why but he put his name out there everywhere into popular culture and, like it or not, he became US President. So, if he can, we also can fight for what we believe in and make a name for ourselves.

After this inspiring call for action, I went to check all the startups of the day I still hadn’t and felt really tired, but we still had some energy saved to go to the exclusive volunteer party at MAIN, a well known club in Lisbon. We had some snacks, danced and chatted with fellow volunteers and got to know more volunteers to, and started feeling nostalgic after. After all, I had to work next day, so no time to rest!

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It’s not really over though!

This Saturday I also had an awesome meetup with other volunteers I still had not met before in Sintra, close from where I live. It’s awesome how you can always meet such incredible people and huge thanks to the two girls who organized this meetup! Seems the other volunteers loved being here and here’s a picture of a dim green light in a foggy night to wrap up. Just because I feel the pic is cool ūüėČ I also hope to catch up with other volunteers soon, let’s see if it works out. I won’t apply to volunteer at Web Summit 2017 since I’ll live abroad but I might be at Collision, the associated even in the USA next May. Stay tuned for more!

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This must be the longest post ever! THANK YOU for bearing with me! Overall I liked the event and being a volunteer. I feel that talking with startups made me learn a lot and made me think a lot about my own “startup”, my PhD, and how can I apply some of the questions I ask startups to myself. I also liked the informal style of the talks. There are also some¬†points for improvement, especially in communication, which I will let the organization know. Now I just want to know all about your experience! Leave your comments and let’s talk about it!

C√°tia

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