Last week, the Kumbu team attended the Web Summit. As first timers, we wanted to share our experience of “the World’s greatest tech’ fest”!
We arrived in sunny(!) Dublin and were able to register for the event directly at the airport: effortless!
The Royal Dublin Society is quite charming for a convention center, with its dressed-stones, human size halls and green spaces. But it isn’t convenient for large scale events: the Web Summit is split into two main venues that are 10 minutes distant one from the other. Luckily, it did not rain much…
The Web Summit team knows transfers are (too) long, so they’ve displayed some surprises to entertain people. And get them to tweet!
The @WebSummitHQ sheep have discovered they can eat the giant teddy! #websummit @CiamhieMc @GarDeady pic.twitter.com/UjnUZoMPZw
— Clyde Carroll (@clydecarroll) November 5, 2015
Afraid to get bored by night? Don’t worry, there are pub crawls & parties every evening. Starting 4:30pm at the Summit itself. If going to the Pub every day may seem unprofessional for your boss, prefer the term “Night Summit”!
As you can imagine, these parties are no less crowded than the Summit itself and Guinness flows like water in the River Liffey! We were invited to the French Tech Night for a… wine & cheese break! Cocorico!
The vast majority of attendees we talked to were exhibitors, just like us. Exhibitors are divided into 4 categories Alpha / Beta / Start / Partners, depending on the fundings raised — and exhibitor packages come with 3–4 tickets. This is why we believe there were far more exhibitors than ordinary attendees. Journalists & investors, are even less numerous. It takes ninja skills to spot them as they cruise incognito, with their badges turned upside down to avoid hordes of urging entrepreneurs! You may argue that 30k people is too much. It probably is. But we found out that the vast majority of people were nice & respectful. With tickets being sold 400€ and above, you create an obvious filter. Anyway, we did not feel hostility of any kind, nor felt oppressed — although making our way through the halls was sometimes laborious.
Need fuel to go through the day? Well, good luck finding some decent coffee! There’s complimentary coffee at every corner, but it’s no pleasure for espresso aficionados. If you are willing to queue or wait for the overexploited machines to cool down, some stands offer life-saving espressos, like the Ford stand. That’s nice! Other stands do have coffee machines… oh wait, nope, you’re not invited!
Holland’s coffee is “invite only”… So is EUFA Euro 2016: sorry guys, you’re not invited! #websummit @visitholland pic.twitter.com/40z2cTrk8z — Arnaud Bressier (@arnaudbressier) November 5, 2015
Stands are 1 meter wide (try having a private conversation), and there are about 700. That’s a lot don’t you think? Well exhibitors change everyday…
As Alpha, we got to exhibit on Day 1. Our stand was ideally located in Builders section, just near the entrance.
It was a great experience. We were really happy to talk with so many people and grateful for the useful feedbacks we received. Besides, we got to test and improve our pitch in the process, and gained beta subscriptions.
Because it’s exhausting to stand up all day, pitching again and again. While exhibiting you can’t attend the talks, neither can you discover some great startups. And that’s one of the greatest value of the Web Summit. With over 2,000 startups, they are plenty of talented entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to talk with!
We noticed a really high number of startups working on Virtual Reality or Artificial Intelligence: pretty exciting to see they had actual and tangible pieces of technology — not just concepts.
Obviously, we could not attend as much talks we would have wanted… mainly because of the never-ending queues at some stages like Code or Startup University. Clearly, these stages were not dimensioned for the amount of people there.
The upside is sessions are punchy, and you can see a lot of them.But the downside is they remain really superficial.
So we dropped the talks when we were already familiar with the topic. And in fact, the most interesting talks were the one we didn’t know anything about.
Sadly, David Heinemeier Hansson could not make it to Dublin… I wonder how his talk would have resonated at the Web Summit.
To fully take advantage of the Summit, one has to be prepared and schedule everything. Good news is there’s an app for that! Bad news is, it’s total crap. It was bugging and freezing ALL the time, making it pointless.
Also, it would not update with talk cancellations, which feels like a missed opportunity. We queued up to a couple of talks that ended up being canceled, only to figure this out at the last minute.
We chose to stay at an hotel for its “morning delight to the senses” AKA the Continental Breakfast! Go on, have a break and watch this Key & Peele’s video — you deserve it!
Globally, public transports are quite OK in Dublin. But the DART signage is a mess. With a bunch of other attendees, we almost ended up at the beach because the train did not stop at the Sandymount station.
The Web Summit 2015 was a great experience for us. Being an early stage startup, we came with little business objectives but a great amount of curiosity to exchange and learn. And we did.
If your customers are startups, or if you’re looking for partnerships, there might be good business opportunities. But as I mentioned, the vast majority of attendees are also exhibitors, so it’s kind of a closed loop. Especially if you’re a B2C startup, you should not expect to grow your user-base there.
Meeting with investors and press is always difficult. Same happens at the Web Summit. It’s mandatory to set up meetings before going to the Web Summit, and therefore to send as many requests as possible. Because response rates are low.
Taking advantage of the Web Summit requires a lot of preparation: if you intend to go there, you should schedule talks and meetings upstream. It went well for us, but we could have done better.
Finally, we ended up really exhausted by the Summit (and obviously because of the night events). But it was worth it as we came back really motivated, with a clearer roadmap and inspiring ideas for Kumbu! As a remote team, it was a great opportunity to spend time together. The conference is broad enough so that there’s something interesting for everyone.
So thank you Web Summit and see you next year in Lisbon!
Any questions or comments? Feel free to reach out!
This blogpost was originally posted on Medium