A few weeks ago, a group of us from Buying Butler flew over to Lisbon for the Web Summit conference. 9 of us went over, who were the initial team that built the first version of our insurance claims platform, RightIndem. The trip was an incentive for us completing the first version on time, and also an opportunity for us to show off our platform to the world as well as pitching to investors.
We all met at the office on Monday morning for work as normal and just lunch we got into a couple of cars and set off to Manchester airport. The trip to the airport was reasonably quick and before we knew it we were checked in and though security. Naturally we went for a pint in the bar before boarding out flight.
After arriving at Lisbon airport, we went straight to the Web Summit registration tent to get our conference pass. This is a great idea to register at the airport because the conference is so large that it would be chaos to do this on the day at the conference itself. The hotel was about 20 minutes drive from the airport so we jumped into taxi’s. Once we got checked in, we got changed met in the bar and then went for dinner at a near by restaurant.
After the restaurant we went back to the hotel and ended up having a large group coding session to finish our competition website for the conference. It was pretty much done as the guys back the office had been finishing it whilst we travelled, but there was still some work to do to get it finished so we took the night shift to get it ready. We ended up having a mini codathon until 2am. I used to love doing this when I was in my 20’s. Now that I am 40, staying up late like this is really hard. I prefer early nights with a nice cup of tea, so this made the next day quite tiring after about 4 hours sleep as no matter what time I go to bed, I always wake up around 6am.
The following day was the first day of Web Summit. We was about 45 minutes away from the conference by Metro so we set off nice and early. I was quite impressed with their underground system in Lisbon. The stations felt clean and spacious, and the locals using the train were quite polite. This is a stark contrast from when I used to commute on the London Underground every day, which is a horrible experience which I hate doing every time I have to go to London.
We wasn’t just attending Web Summit to visit the conference. We had a stand in the Beta section of the conference. This is an area where start-ups can show off their businesses to other companies (for increased exposure) and also to investors who come to Web Summit looking for the next big thing. We had the beta stand for a full day, where I helped man the stand, and we was there all day. I won’t lie, I thought my feet were going to drop off by the end of the day on the stand, but it was a great success and we generated a lot of interest in RightIndem.
After the day on the beta stand we had the opportunity to see more of the conference. Web Summit is HUGE. There are loads of difference conferences going on over 4 large pavilion buildings in different areas like design, development and data etc. As well as the individual conferences there was a huge stage in the main arena. This stage was huge and very impressive. I saw lots of talk here from different visionaries including an ISS astronaut, which was pretty cool.
I am quite used to attending and speaking at conferences, so was looking forward to seeing some of the technical content, but to be honest, the more technical talks were very high level indeed as the speaker only gets about 20 minutes, which is not enough time to cover anything in detail. I speak at a lot of conferences and I even struggle to get into enough depth in a 1 hour talk.
Web Summit really excels in talks that are more entrepreneurial and about using technology to help humanity. I saw some very good talks in this area. If I went to Web Summit again, I would just bypass the technical content and focus on the business content. I would leave technical content to conferences like NDC or Techorama.
We spent 2 and a half days at the conference in total, and the remaining half a day we did some sight seeing. From the conference we jumped in an Uber and took a right over to a cathedral (Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Mary Major) for some culture. We also went for coffee and some traditional Portuguese custard tarts at the famous Pasteis de Belem, which are amazing, especially when warm. The day we decided to do some sightseeing, the weather was really nice. The sun was shining and quite got, which was great for November, when back in the UK it was near freezing and very wet.
We then went to visit a castle / tower (Belem Tower) which was very picturesque. We was at Belem Tower as the sun was setting so it was a great photo opportunity. It’s a shame we only had half a day for proper sight seeing as Lisbon is a beautiful city. I would really like to come back here with my wife, Amanda, for a longer stay someday.
Once we had finished at Belem Tower we got the tram back to the hotel ready for our final night out in Lisbon. Once we had finished at the restaurant a few of us went for a walk around town to see some sights at night and we then went back to the hotel for a drink. The next day we was travelling home so we just had a lazy morning getting packed and ready to travel to the hotel. We kept this evening easy as the previous night after dinner we went for drinks at the Night Summit so we was out late again. I gave up at 2.30am but a few of the guys were out until 6.30am, which is when I normally get up in the morning…
The next morning a group of us decided to camp out at a local café for breakfast and to get some work done as the Wi-Fi in the hotel wasn’t very good, but this café had vey good Wi-Fi. We spend most of the morning here catching up with work and staying in touch with the office. This was a great opportunity to sample more Portuguese custard tarts and other fine cakes.
Our flight was early afternoon so we got taxi’s to the airports ready for our flight. Overall the trip was a great success. We showcased one of our products, RightIndem to show attendees and investors and that went very well. We have had lots of investment interest and we are currently following up on that. If I had the opportunity to go to Web Summit again, I would definitely like to go, but this time I wouldn’t plan any technical talks. I will leave those types of talks to conferences like NDC and Techorama. Instead I would just focus on seeing more entrepreneurial and inspirational talks. One of my favourite talks was about a company that is building drone ports in third world countries to make it easier to deliver medical supplies around to towns. It’s these types of talks that Web Summit really excels at.