Web Summit: Where tech minds across the globe set the pace for 2020’s business world

Web Summit, the world’s largest tech conference, takes place over the course of four days in Lisbon, Portugal. From the day events to the exhibitions to the night summit, it’s “where the tech world meets.”

It was the first time my startup and I made the trek to Web Summit. FOLO, which I founded with a friend from undergrad about six months ago, is a global friendship-based network inspiring the most adventurous travelers. Like most companies still in development, we’ve had our ups and downs. We knew the opportunities at Web Summit were huge, so we applied to exhibit as part of ALPHA—Web Summit’s program for early-stage startups. 

We were accepted, and these were our goals: 

  1. Solidify a deadline to complete our prototype
  2. Receive feedback on our product
  3. Build our network in the industry (investors, partners, corporations, etc.)

How Web Summit works

Web Summit provides an app with the schedule of events and workshops offered throughout the four-day conference. This way, you can personalize your experience and attend only the sessions you find relevant. Aside from the obvious tech-centered purpose of the summit, the event aims to connect people, and allows attendees to easily network through the scanning software implemented in their application. Meeting new people and building connections in different industries is one of—if not the—key takeaway from the event. 

Days 1-3

After a morning coffee at Copenhagen Coffee Lab (quick plug because the coffee was delicioso), we made our way to the event. The subway was packed—we were like thousands of nicely dressed sardines in an underground tank. But the journey was quick, and Web Summit posters decorated every subway stop.

The venue, Altice Arena, was huge. About 70,000 attended over the four days, but the registration process was smooth and easy. In two minutes, I had my entrance card and bracelet. The card had my name, FOLO’s name, and a QR code that synced to my individual profile on the Web Summit app. 

This feature was awesome: when you met people you wanted to keep in contact with, you simply needed to scan each other’s QR codes and you were connected via the app. Even at the Night Summit, which was the social part, you’d hear, “Hey, let me scan you so we can stay in touch.” Two seconds—a lot quicker than WhatsApp, LinkedIn, or Facebook. Any time I heard someone speaking about a diverse industry or interesting work, I’d connect with them in this way.

The festival tent was borderline overwhelming, with so many things to see and do. What caught my eye first was the SAP basketball court—people were really playing basketball, music was blasting, and the interactive data court was able to compare the players’ stats vs. the league’s best players in real time.

Ten minutes in, I went to my first workshop: «Scaling Content Production without Sacrificing Your Visual Identity,» hosted by Shutterstock. This workshop was super insightful and I learned how Shutterstock—and virtually every other future-minded company—were making their platforms customer-centric with continuous increases in personalization.

I filled the rest of this day and the days that followed with other workshops and talks, from a User Interface/User Experience (UI/UX) workshop to talks about urban mobility and innovative pitches from entrepreneurs.

One particular talk that I would like to highlight was done by SAP CMO Alicia Tillman. She spoke about “catching feelings,” or the strength of experience. 

As I’m studying the Master in Customer Experience & Innovation, this really caught my attention. Tillman underscored the importance of having a deep understanding of human behavior in today’s customer-centric and tech-based world. Marketing strategies must keep up with the consumer.

Day 4: FOLO’s exhibition

It was FOLO’s big day. The goal: display our product, obtain valuable feedback from industry experts, and build genuine connections.

A little background on FOLO: the name was inspired by a restaurant in Sydney, called FOLONOMO: “For love not money.” This mantra that resonated with my co-founder and me. Sonically, it also sounds like “follow,” which, for a company aimed to connect people from all over the world, fit to a tee. 

Our problem? Huge competition. Our proposed solution? Niche product.

We noticed a pain point in travelers that want adventure, but may not want adventure alone. Our app aims to connect people with a passion for travel with others of similar mindsets, so they can explore together. 

At Web Summit, we had a tiny exhibition stand. We received a lot of feedback and a lot of questions, made great connections, and had a lot of fun. It was a great venue for receiving feedback—good and bad—from people who may have completely different ideas.

Should you make the trip to Web Summit?

From the slightly curious to the all-out tech geek, if you’re at all interested in how technology is redefining different industries, reshaping company leadership, and restructuring the modern business world, then the answer is a resounding yes.

Talented, influential people from tiny companies to huge corporations meet at Web Summit to share, learn, and collaborate. This cluster of mentalities not only inspires and encourages, but opens doors to out-of-the-box thinking, collaborative innovation, and new ideas. As a couple of young entrepreneurs, we found the entirety of the event incredibly helpful, with expectations succeeded and larger appetites moving forward for what lies next for our company. 

The next Web Summit will be held in Lisbon, Portugal on November 22, 2020. I will be there, and encourage anyone interested to read more about it here, contact me at tabea@foloaround.com, or check out the video below.


With a background in international business and marketing, Tabea Arnold now studies the Master Customer Experience & Innovation at IE School of Human Sciences & Technology. Her career focus is to improve the user experience and apply new innovations and technologies to the world and to her own business, FOLO. Her aim: to inspire, not impress.