For the last 10 years, Web Summit has grown to become one of the best technology conferences on the planet, according to Forbes. I was one of the lucky 70,000 attendees to join Web Summit 2019 in Lisbon last week (November 2nd to 6th). The conference was really rich, and the difficult part was actually to decide which talks to attend. I attended Web Summit 2 months before submitting my thesis and therefore my mind was all about Digital Transformation, Technology and Education. Let me go through my top 3 talks this year and the start-up I was lucky to meet.
Reason 1 – A good variety of speakers and topics
From the 4-days conference, here are the 3 presentations that echoed the most to me.
Top 1 – Opening Slot by Edward Snowden
Web Summit program started with a 20-minutes video live conference of Edward Snowden. I had obviously heard like many of you about his story, but I felt worried while live listening to Snowden.
He explained how the US government’ system was monitoring and storing indefinitely every kind of electronic communications, in case of one day someone would commit a ‘crime’.
What do you do when the most powerful institutions in the society have become the least accountable.Edward Snowden at Web Summit 2019
When asked about GDPR, he noted that this regulation wasn’t resolving the core problem. For him, it isn’t much the data protection the worry, but its collection. How can a society act as a democracy if data is being monitored by institutions and kept without people knowing? He blamed the known tech companies for building business models that “make the population vulnerable for the benefits of the privileged” and commended the restructuring of the complete internet network.
The only way to protect anyone is to protect everyone.Edward Snowden at Web Summit 2019
His message really echoed in me. I am impressed by such the courage of this individual (like many others) who risked his freedom. I bought his latest book on Monday evening.
Top 2 – The future we build needs to be open ! by Katherine Maher, CEO at Wikimedia Foundation
Katherine Maher, CEO at Wikimedia Foundation, talked about how to make the future open, equitable and fair for all. While she brought some true Society problems, such as trust and environnement, Katherine speech was really positive and optimistic.
[At Wikipedia], we don’t believe the world in a crisis of knowledge. Rather, we are in crisis of trust.Katherine Maher, at Web Summit 2019
Several open communities such as Wikipedia, based on individual contributions, create platforms and systems that go around and complement traditional sources of authority to help operating our contemporary society.
Every crisis is an opportunity to a renewed sense of purpose.Katherine Maher, at Web Summit 2019
I was very proud to see a woman as Katherine Maher stepping up at Web Summit to balance all talks about Technology, Development or Innovation and make us think for 20 minutes about the sense of purpose.
Top 3 – In conversation with Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissionner
Former Minister in Denmark (Economy and Interior, Education), Margrethe Vestager currently serves as EU Commissionner for Competition and VP-designate for the next Commission. She is one of the most influential women in Technology today.
It was really interesting to get Margrethe Vestager view about the large Tech companies activities in Europe and how to protect humanity against their monopoly positions and their potential threat for Democracy.
I think that it takes a community like this, actually to make tech serve humans, because this is what we’re going to do.Margrethe Vestager at Web Summit 2019
She acknowledged the importance of innovation for serving humans. But at the same time, she pointed that technology and specifically AI, has no limit and therefore requires an understanding of all cornerstones. To trust them, we must ensure there’s not bias.
Mark Zuckerberg is an amazing creator of an amazing company. If he himself put action behind his words, we would see changes rapidly.Margrethe Vestager at Web Summit 2019, about Facebook’ decision not to interfere about political advertising in its platform.
One of the key topic brought during this discussion was about Digital Rights and how people would feel confortable with what data is being collected about them. Being liberal, Margrethe Vestager believes the market will help resolve this problem, with larger organisations being more accountable.
Reason 2 : An exhibition floor full of international Tech companies and start-ups.
As mentioned before, Web Summit is also the place for start-ups to meet investors. Each day, I walked to the Education area to search for inspirational start-up for my thesis. Here are some I identified :
ClassNinjas is an Austrian start-up founded in December 2017 that teaches maths in an entertaining way through animated short videos and quizzes. In just few months, the platform brought together more than 10,000 students. They are very active on TikTok, with more than 20 millions video viewes on educational content and more than 80,000 followers. Stay tune as ClassNinjas is about to launch an iOS and Android App end of November to allow students to watch maths videos and do exercises and exams through their mobile devices. For more information, visit www.classninjas.at.
CleverMee is a Portuguese start-up that proposes an online educational platform. Based on AI, CleverMee offers a personalized learning path to achieve academic success. It empowers teachers with class insights, as well as potential activities for in-class activities. The platform is being tested with 1,000 students in Lisbon. For more information, www.clevermee.com
Sapie is a platform developed in Portugal in 2017 to prevent potential school failure, including academic, health and vocational guidance. It is based on AI, including predictive analytics. It is currently being implemented in 85 school centers, and servicing 100,000 students. For more information, www.sapie.pt/en.
Reason 3 : lots of FUN !
As a participant, you won’t sleep much. Indeed, when conference doors close in Arena at the end of the day, the city center is ready to welcome participants for a night of networking, partying, visiting, etc. Making it a good mixture between business and leisure.
As a conclusion, I think that such event gives the big picture of the world we live in. It is critical to be aware of upcoming trends to be able to adapted on our fast-moving environment. I will most likely be there next year 🙂
For get another view, have a look at Virginie Counioux’ article as she also visited Web Summit back in 2017. Here is her insights.