The Mecca of the tech world, the Web Summit brought almost 70,000 tech experts, startup founders, CEOs, investors, government leaders, international media and influential personalities from a medley of industries in 166 countries to Lisbon, Portugal, between November 5th-8th.
Described as “the best technology conference on the planet”, this year’s event took place in the Portuguese capital for the third time and featured 1,200 speakers. With so much going on, here’s what really mattered at the best networking hub for professionals, in and outside the world of tech:
1. We need a more diversified, gender-equal workforce
While the percentage of women attendees at the Web Summit has almost doubled in five years (now at 44%), a topical discussion at this year’s conference was the workplace gender gap. Despite the feeling of progress in 2018, driven in part by the #metoo movement, the amount of females in leadership roles has declined in the last four year.
Data shows that the number of female CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies has fallen by 25% this year.
Leading the discussion were Wall Street Journal journalist Thorold Barker, Vera Jourovo from the European Commission and Gillian Tans, CEO of Booking.com. They concluded that diversity will only ever be an advantage, but that it is up to companies and investors to take ownership and increase the number of female managers.
“Investors should start understanding that it is good for their business to have more women in decision-making positions. After the financial crisis, it was quite obvious that companies having females in leading positions felt the crisis earlier and were able to adapt faster,” said Gillian Tans.
2. The European tech scene is poised for success
With less investment to be able to rival the likes of Silicon Valley and China, the European tech scene could nonetheless be a bustling hub of potential unicorns. Par Jorgen Parson, of venture capital investors Northzone, Reshma Sohoni, from the European seed fund Seedcamp, and Harry Nelis, from American venture capital firm Accel, discussed the outlook for the future and how Europe can sustain this recent growth.
In fact, with rising industries such as fintech, healthcare and AI, the panel suggested that, in these exciting startup times, Europe is the best place globally to start a company. To develop this ecosystem, however, startups must reach out for help. Local capital could be useful for very new startups, said the experts, outlining the potential advantages of gaining investment from European investors.
3. The father of the Web wants a better Internet
Almost 30 years after creating the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee is spearheading a “Contract for the Web”. He launched the campaign at the Web Summit to persuade governments, companies and individuals to get on board with a set of principles that have been designed to defend a free and open web and increase trust in the Internet.
Calling on these entities to work together, the inventor of the Internet said that abuses of personal data, online hate speech, political manipulation and the centralisation of power among a small group of major tech firms has damaged a sense of optimism about the internet.
“We need a new ‘Contract for the Web’, with clear and tough responsibilities for those who have the power to make it better,” said Berners-Lee on the first day of the conference.
More than 50 organisations have already endorsed the contract’s nine principles, including the French government and companies such as Google and Facebook. Its goals include protecting privacy, providing universal Internet access, keeping the Internet open and universal, and building online social systems that impede harassment and hate speech but promote constructive conversations.
The Web Summit returns to Lisbon between November 4th-7th, 2019.