Hot off the back of our visit to Amsterdam for TNW’s epic technology conference, five of the Kyan team headed to Heathrow to embark on a short journey to what Politico described as “the world’s premier tech conference”. Destination: Lisbon Web Summit 2021.
Understandably, the audience was significantly smaller than previous years, at 42,000 attendees. As with any live event, particularly one that welcomes international visitors, strict rules and regs were in place to ensure safety throughout the conference. But we couldn’t help but wonder what a great job Web Summit could have done with a virtual version. That said, we were so glad to see such a diverse crowd come together in-person.
An eclectic line-up of tech talent
Climate, crypto, business, politics, tech and activism – there were topics aplenty to keep us engaged. We particularly enjoyed talks from the godfather of the world wide web himself, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Director of Journalists for Human Rights Africa, Siyabulela Mandela, and comedian and founder of Smart Girls, Amy Poehler.
There was no shortage of challenges to big tech either, with Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, publicly calling for Zuckerberg’s resignation, and football coach Thierry Henry reminding us that social media platforms continue to profit from hate and conflict. We also saw some refreshingly honest and almost off-script reassurance from Facebook CPO, Chris Cox, offering down-to-earth advice that “The metaverse should not replace real life. Nothing should, and I would not want to design something that does.”
Web Summit is famed for the sheer volume of speakers that it hosts, but this is far from a ‘stand and listen’ event. Between the talks, we found ourselves enjoying the vast physical space and connecting with others, whether juniors, founders, startups or scaleups. An event like Web Summit is just as much about the community and the networking as it is about the headline acts. As an agency powered by people, this is the kind of conference that we like to see, and the opportunity to build relationships around our common interests of technology and innovation is something we really have missed, and something that just isn’t the same on Zoom. (By the way, you’re muted.)
So what did we learn?
Well, we arrived at the conference with only half of us really understanding NFTs, and we left being able to have conducive conversation around these tokens and how they’re changing the way that digital products change hands. We learned what’s to come in the next era of cryptocurrency. We heard that TikTok might just be the future of music. We also saw some brilliant examples of how AI will revolutionise education.
We revelled in the time we spent with one another. The five of us don’t get to work together often, as we are spread across various functions within Kyan (engineering, strategy, marketing and technology). So to be away from our screens and in an immersive environment, we bonded, we generated ideas and we traded them. “Hey, this has worked with my team, you should try it with yours” or “We’ve used this tech for this process, maybe this could work for you too.”
Disconnecting to reconnect
During our time away from live events, we certainly missed the wonder and excitement that they bring. But as we return to them, we find ourselves experiencing them in a way that is different to before. Whilst Web Summit was the event and the backdrop, we saw it as a space to think and create. Our collective goal of building better teams, better products and ultimately a better business really took a big step forward over these few days together, and this warm and welcome trip felt beneficial and productive.
We touched down on UK soil with new business ideas, new marketing campaigns, a hybrid working strategy for 2022, and a whole host of new connections, as well as better ways to make our online meetings feel more connected and inclusive.
As a tech agency powered by people, we know only too well that tech alone isn’t the answer. It’s people – those who think tech, design tech and build tech. When you blend brilliant technology with brainy people, you really can have something special. So whilst we all get head-over-heels about the metaverse—an intriguing arrival after the last 18 months of digital downtime—let’s not neglect the realverse.
“The future is so much bigger than the past.”
Sir Tim Berners-Lee
If you fancy a real chat with me, a real person, give me a shout.
You never know what ideas we could create.
We are Kyan, an agency powered by people.