Five things we’re watching at Web Summit in Lisbon
Lisbon offers the Web Summit a new venue and supposedly better infrastructure
A sign for Europe’s biggest tech conference, the Web Summit, at Comercio Square in Lisbon, Portugal. Will the chosen location prove better than Dublin? Photograph: Rafael Marchante
The new venue
There’s no getting away from it: Dublin was getting too small to host the Web Summit. Or at least the venues were. The RDS was getting maxed out last year, with about 40,000 attendees estimated, and this year, the event has added another 10,000 or so, moving above 50,000 registered attendees.
If the Web Summit wanted to grow, it was reasonable to assume it had to leave Dublin behind.
In stepped Lisbon, with the MEO-FIL arena that could, in theory, hold up to 80,000 people. Back in January, managing director of Arena Atlantico (the company that owns the new home of the Web Summit) Jorge Vinha da Silva said he was confident that Lisbon could pull it off. The one catch though is that the venue had yet to host an event for more than 30,000 people.
One of the contentious issues in the past couple of years in Dublin was the quality of the Web Summit’s internet connection – specifically that people had trouble connecting to the internet inside the RDS. Last year, the organisers brought in a third party firm to try to solve the problem. But this year, the venue is sponsored by one of Portugal’s biggest mobile phone networks, MEO. So will the internet access hold up?
One of the chief criticisms about Dublin’s hosting of the Web Summit was that the infrastructure was inadequate – including transport. Lisbon has one big advantage in this respect: the Metro, an underground system that links the airport, hotels and the Web Summit venue. On arrival at the airport, Web Summit attendees can pick up a pass for the Metro – €25, not free – and are on their way. In Dublin, it’s a choice of bus or taxi from the airport. There’s no rail link from the airport, and although the Dart passes close to the RDS, it’s not really as convenient as the metro. So chalk one up in Lisbon’s favour.
This year’s line-up includes the old faithful tech execs, but there are also some well-known names lurking in there. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, NeYo, Ronaldinho, Shailene Woodley, Luis Figo and Lily Cole are all on the speaker list. There are 7,000 chief executives down to attend, according to the Web Summit’s site, but will there be the same number of people from the multinationals attending? We’ll find out once the dust has settled.
The pub crawls are staying. The Night Summit kicks off this evening, but will the event have the same atmosphere as Dublin days gone by? Dublin doesn’t have the monopoly on good nights out, and Lisbon may prove to be a cheaper option, which would be welcome. It will require some tough investigation, but someone has to do it . . .