Last year I missed Web Summit, what has become Europe’s number one technology event, amusingly labeled as the Davos For Geeks. I went the first two years and this year’s event is a far cry from my year one experience when they only had 500 attendees. Now in its fourth year, 20,000 people flew into Dublin early this week for the premier 3 day event.
Founder, Paddy Cosgrave opened the Summit in the morning, emphasizing the importance of the social element to the Summit where deals can – and have been – done. That said, there was still a lot of activity around the main stage, where they had a host of high level discussions and speakers on the hour all day.
The center stage had Brendan Iribe, the founder of Oculus Rift who spoke about the rise of virtual reality and its applications in everyday life. Skip Rizzo the Director for Medical Virtual Reality and early stage developer of Oculus Rift gave a demonstration of the technology’s uses for post-traumatic stress disorder for returning veterans. From being shot at to street explosions, the virtual reality exposure therapy has assisted veterans in dealing with their PSD, explained Rizzo, outlining how in one recent study, of 23 completers of the therapy, 16 showed gains and benefits resulting from it. Next stage development will be treating civilians who have experienced stressful situations in their lives.
Index Ventures partner Saul Klein talked about how entrepreneurialism is becoming mainstream. From money and venture hype to an emotional topic around healthcare. Jorge Soto described how from a personal family diagnosis of cancer, a way to decode disease and identify cancerous cells in their earliest stages may have been found. Then, John Collins of Stripe spoke of the rise of his online payment company and how it has disrupted the existing online payments ecosystem. ”
Gary Marcus, scientist, best-selling author and NYU professor took on the topic of artificial intelligence, Amazon’s Werner Vogels chatted with Ben Rooney, Stewart Baker, Matthew Prince and James Ball took on privacy rights, and Dropbox CEO Drew Houston chatted with Laurie Segall from CNN on the main stage.
Below Paddy talking to a speaker.
Evernote’s CEO Phil Libin spoke about his company being an ‘anti-social network’ and that ‘you should be able to say less and do more.’ From a geek app to acting, actress, businesswoman and philantropist Eva Longoria spoke to Jemima Khan about the importance of women in business. “Women start businesses at three times the average yet can’t get funding,” she said issuing a challenge to the women in the audience. ”
Later in the afternoon, former CEO of Apple John Sculley took questions after his main stage appearance with David Carr.
One thing about a conference growing to 20,000 attendees so quickly, is that rather than it feeling like a conference, it felt more like a university campus, or even a small town if you will. Within the web summit, there were micro-summits that addressed various topic sectors. For example, they had a Builders, Enterprise, Machine, and Marketing Summit, and at each of them, there were a host of start-ups demoing their latest. Town Square and Village Green also had their own selection of start-ups and then there were “alpha company booths” in the main exhibit hall dedicated to early start-ups, which was about a 10-15 minute walk from the main stage.
Here I was able to see demos from lifestyle vendors, specifically digital health — Kolibree, the connected electric toothbrush (disclosure, I’m an advisor), Gudpod, who hopes to revolutionize the way people take vitamins & supplements with a ‘Keurig like’ internet connected appliance & pod system and Bluetens, who is bringing medical grade mobile electro-stimulation device to the masses to help relax your muscles.
Food Summit was a great addition to the event this year. We wrote about their initial announcement back in November of 2013. The Food Summit portion has also grown quickly and there were countless vendors touting their latest in fresh ingredients and farm-to-table practices. Gluten and GMO-free were buzz words throughout and I saw everything from a fresh apple stand surrounded by pumpkins (t’is the season) to homemade yoghurt, ice cream, jams, jellies, honey and olive oils.
I absolutely loved tasting the oh so many samples from Crossogue Preserves. Imagine these flavors on your toast in the morning: grapefruit, Irish whiskey, orange and ginger, lime and brandy, plum and port, gooseberry and elderberry, hedgerow, fig and apple and more. Yum!!
Other favorites were the Irish sea salt and Harnett’s Oils, such as hemp, grapeseed, orange and rosemary and basil oils. I was in heaven. It was a great way to spend an hour or so away from the tech and the noise.
To get to the Food Summit, you had to pass by Herbert Park, which was on the grounds of the main event, which was held this year at the well known Royal Dublin Society on Merrion Road in Dublin. It was a perfect fall day with plenty of ducks on the pond and vibrant colors exploding from the trees.
Photo credits: Stage photos from the Web Summit sportsfile Flickr stream. Photo of Kolibree & Bluetens, Herbert Park and all Food Summit Photos: Renee Blodgett.