How to get Web Summit right: The Mews survival guide

Data Analyst at Mews. Graphs, charts, and queries during the day, downward dog, traveling, photography, and occasional blogging after that. Sometimes I miss Excel and I am not afraid to say it.

Web Summit is Europe’s biggest tech conference, bringing over 70,000 attendees to Lisbon each year. This is the story of four data analysts traveling to Portugal this November and discovering what all the buzz is about. We’re going to share our tips for nailing the conference, what we liked (and didn’t like), and what we took away from it all.

How to nail the conference

  • Expectation versus reality. Ask yourself whether it is the right conference for you and what you expect from it. Do your research. If you want to know for whom we think the conference is tailored, keep reading 😊 
  • Download the Web Summit app in advance. It is where your ticket is stored, where you can contact other attendees, and where you can find the plan for all the talks together with a map. And that is essential. 
  • Figure out your strategy. Did you come to listen to the talks? Get inspired? Find new opportunities? Get to know new people and work on your network? 
  • Take your time to plan the talks you want to attend. There are just so many, and it is easy to miss something you might be interested in. We often ended up at a great talk by chance that we missed while planning our schedules. 
  • Learn how to read the talk’s descriptions. Individual speakers can be interesting, but half of the time, their talks were product pitches. If that is not what you came for, focus on panel discussions, Q&A sessions, or Masterclasses. 
  • Time management is key. Having 70,000 people in one spot can create chaos, and if you want to make the most out of the packed program, you need to optimize your schedule.
  • Don’t try to do everything. The event is intense, so it is important to take a step back and plan breaks between talks. If you think you will be there from the first talk until the last, your colleagues will have to carry you back to your accommodation.  
  • Bring your colleagues! Not only as a backup but as a great team bonding experience. We truly enjoyed discussing what we heard and experienced each day over a glass of Portuguese wine as everybody’s program varied. 
  • Count with queues everywhere. If you don’t want to spend one hour every morning queueing to enter (there is a thorough security check), arrive early. If you want to grab lunch without one hour in a queue, eat early or bring your own food. Masterclasses are super limited, so plan to arrive at least 30 min early.  
  • Stay in one spot/one area for a longer period. Pick a topic (rather than individual talk) you are interested in and stick with it. An immense amount of time is lost while “commuting” between stages (on the other hand, you will hit your daily step count before lunch 😛) 
  • If you are on a budget, charge your metro card on arrival. Uber and other car services double their prices during high demand. 

Now you’re ready to master next year’s Web Summit. 

But what did we think about the 2022 event? 


What was your expectation of the conference?

I was the only one from our group who experienced Web Summit back in 2019. I knew it could be pretty crazy, but I felt inspired last time, so I was looking for the same thing. To see what is out there and what is happening in the tech world. We often stay closed in the bubble of technologies we work with, so Web Summit can broaden one’s horizons.

Who do you think would benefit from attending Web Summit?

The conference could benefit many people, but I think those who enjoy it the most are people from sales, marketing, investment, or journalism, and anyone else who is interested in all things tech-related. Do you want to hear something inspirational from the CEO of your favourite software company? How they started and where are they heading? Then it is a good place to be.

Top three content getaways

Talent is widely distributed. Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia shared the story of a person who became an admin of the English Wikipedia and started to administer a lot of articles about female scientists – a weak spot at the time on Wiki. They later found out it was a 13-year-old girl 😊 He mentioned that if they had sat down and brainstormed how to solve that pain point, this probably would not be a solution they would have come up with. But talent exists beyond borders.

Quantum computing gives rise to many exciting solutions, such as calculating how molecules bind to proteins for disease and cure research. There were multiple inspirational talks from companies like Algorithmiq and Oxford Quantum Circuits. But this tech also brings worry and uncertainty when it comes to current forms of encryption, which will eventually become insufficient. That’s where governments start to get involved. What does this new technology mean for our future, and how do we ensure it won’t be used maliciously?

Data reliability and effectiveness are key. Nobody wants bad data, because trust only goes so far and a lot of money can get lost during the process even if your company has top-notch data infrastructure. We see you Monte Carlo, and we like what we are seeing!

Who was your favourite speaker at the conference (and why)?

All the above mentioned, plus I really enjoyed the talk by Meredith Whittaker, the president of the Signal messaging app and Julia Angwin from TheMarkup. I had no idea Signal was a non-profit organisation, which was a breath of fresh air after other talks. If you care about privacy and your data being encrypted (Signal can’t decrypt it even if they want to), give the app a try.


What was your expectation of the conference?

In general, I try never to set expectations, and I love being surprised rather than disappointed 😊 Instead of expectations, I set intentions for myself – mental reminders of why I’m going to the event.

One intention I set was to get the most out of it, even when it required getting out of my comfort zone. And just after the first day, I found myself with a question I wanted to ask during the Q&A session from one of the speakers of the opening ceremony – CZ, Binance CEO. I’m a shy person, so it is very hard for me to speak in public, especially with cameras and microphones, but I would hate to miss an opportunity when it is right there, right? So I did manage to ask my question and felt that I grew by overcoming my fears and that even this small event was a good learning experience for me.

Who do you think would benefit from attending Web Summit?

I believe Web Summit is for very extroverted people 😀 and/or companies and individuals that are looking for places to invest in or are curious about the technology market. So many companies, start-ups, and scale-ups are sharing their story from either a stage or a booth that you will surely learn something new, get inspired, or at least see current trends and where the interest in tech is going.

Your top three content getaways

Even though quantum computers can still physically occupy a considerable part of a room, Illana Wisby from Oxford Quantum Circuits discusses how they can be connected to and accessed through the cloud. And how that means companies can get themselves a quantum engineer/analyst (a future trendy job position? Wink-wink) to play with a quantum computer, for example, on AWS.

I was happy to see that there were many talks about the ethical use of data. For example, I enjoyed a masterclass from the Esomar organisation on developing guidance for analysts, researchers, and government organisations on collecting and processing data in an unbiased, responsible manner.

There were also 12 sessions devoted to the war in Ukraine and even more about the work of journalists during the war. I believe it is important to remember what world we live in and how technology can be used to save lives and provide safety. I was happy, sad, and grateful to see these sessions on the agenda and attend in person or rewatch them later. For example, in the session ‘How blockchain tech saves lives in Ukraine’, Iryna Lorens shares how the crypto donation project Unchain Fund’s infrastructure was launched and was able to provide first aid in just 72 hours after February 24th 2022.

Who was your favourite speaker at the conference (and why)?

I would highlight Illana Wisby from Oxford Quantum Circuits, who amazed me with how easy to understand she presents complicated topics such as Quantum Computing. I can definitely recommend listening to her if you are curious about the topic.

Would you like to visit the next Web Summit as a Mewser?

We’re still hiring! Check out the cool teams you can join!


What was your expectation of the conference?

I had two main expectations. The first, that 70,000 attendees wouldn’t feel like 70,000 attendees 😅 I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of people and everything that came with it – the long queues, limited masterclass space, and crowded morning commutes. And second, that the content of the talks would be more in a lecture or TED-talk style rather than sometimes veering towards the promotion of a specific product/software.    

Also, please be aware that they attach a cloth wristband upon registration that you aren’t allowed to take off, which could be a pain! 

Who do you think would benefit from attending Web Summit?

Web Summit is great for start-ups or companies looking for potential investors or solutions to their various problems – for example, choosing between different plug-and-play AI/ML products. I also think it’s great for networking as a company or as an individual because people are really open to discussion. There’s a third category, and I think I fall into that because I’m none of the above and still enjoyed Web Summit: it gave me a great snapshot of what the tech landscape looks like and what it might look like in five or ten years. 

Your top three content getaways 

On discussing why it’s important to have diversity and regulation in tech, Illana Wisby from Oxford Quantum Circuits said, “the technology of the future is shaped by who makes it today.” This is a vital challenge that society faces as our lives become increasingly dependent on technology, not just as an industrial feat but in terms of human rights. Micheal O’Flaherty from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights gave an example of the dangers of not having that inclusivity from people building societal solutions leading to a discriminatory algorithm in the Netherlands that resulted in the actual ruining of lives.  

Action in a democracy is usually taken after people take the time to learn something – on social media, reactions are placed in a pressure cooker and brought straight to action (i.e., “cancelling”) without actually learning anything. Editors and contributors to The Guardian, USA Today, and Yahoo! spoke about how, in the era of pundits who live off “cancel culture” and armchair experts, it’s important to remember that democracy is dependent on hard, honest journalism. That can also mean owning up to when journalism makes mistakes.  

Surveillance and consumerism underwrite technology, something that we as a society are already and should continue to think about changing. 

Who was your favourite speaker at the conference (and why)?

I have to agree with Marketa that Meredith Whittaker and Julia Angwin were both so inspiring. However, I also immensely enjoyed the masterclass by the Aurora Tech Awards on women entrepreneurs in tech. Specifically, Chioma Agwuegbo of TechHerNG, who said that when it comes to women in tech and business, women don’t need charity, they need resources 👏🏼👏🏼 


What was your expectation of the conference? 

I did not have any specific expectations set for the conference, but what I definitely did not expect was that half of the talks I decided to attend would resemble a pitch contest rather than bring valuable and genuine insights on the subject matter. By the second day of the conference, I became more selective in choosing what talks would be worthwhile, and with some research on the guest speakers, I managed to sneak into several thought-provoking and engaging talks.  

Who do you think would benefit from attending Web Summit?

I don’t think I can single out a specific group that would benefit the most by attending the conference. For tech enthusiasts, Web Summit is a great way to learn about new trends in the tech industry. For start-ups, the summit represents a unique opportunity to attract potential investors and for investors to find “the next” start-up to invest in. You can absolutely find your cup of tea during the conference regardless of your domain of interest or the group you belong to. 

Your top three content getaways 

Many tech companies use open-source software for their development needs. However, there is always the risk that an open-source project might shut down due to contributors abandoning it because of a lack of time or resources. In an attempt to make open-source development profitable for the creators and sustainable in the long term, Max Howell, CEO of tea Inc., brings a new concept/product to the table in which open-source developers are compensated fairly for their contributions to the ecosystem. 

Bad data is extremely costly for companies. Netflix was down for 45 minutes due to an issue with duplicate objects that brought the entire system down. With companies becoming more data-driven than ever, it’s crucial to ensure that the data is reliable and properly monitored, as mentioned by Barr Moses, the founder of Monte Carlo. 

Gen Z distrusts traditional news platforms, especially those majorly controlled by a few very rich people, such as Twitter. Instead, Gen Z looks up to their peers from the same generation as a source of trust. That’s why news platforms need to follow the audience to the apps where they spend most of their time (e.g., TikTok, Snapchat, etc.) in order to reach them. 

Who was your favourite speaker at the conference (and why)?

One of the most inspiring talks from the Web Summit for me was the masterclass hosted by the Aurora Tech Awards on women entrepreneurs in the tech industry. I loved that all the speakers were using technology as a means to increase women’s digital literacy in vulnerable societies and solve other societal problems. I was inspired by Ainura Sagyn, who shared how she set up an educational program for young girls in Kyrgyzstan to expose them to the world of technology. The program would mimic the development process of an app geared towards solving a societal problem. Over the course of several years, the girls would be part of the same group but take on a different role every year within the app development process (from product designer –> to product manager –> to software developer –> to QA engineer). 

So that’s our story. All in all, Web Summit was a valuable learning experience, but we quickly found out that you need to be prepared to make the most of it. If we make it to next year’s event, we’ll be sure to use our newfound tips to guide us – and we hope they’ll help you too!

Data Analyst at Mews. Graphs, charts, and queries during the day, downward dog, traveling, photography, and occasional blogging after that. Sometimes I miss Excel and I am not afraid to say it.

More About &