Web Summit returns in-person with more than 40,000 expected

More than 700 speakers to address at global technology event in Lisbon

Web Summit returns as an in-person event to Lisbon this week with more than 40,000 people expected to converge on the Portuguese capital for the annual tech conference.

This is down on the 70,469 attendees of the last in-person event held two years ago but is a strong showing given the uncertainty that remains with the coronavirus pandemic. Many more people are expected to attend the conference virtually. Last year, about 104,000 tuned in for Web Summit’s online-only event.

A number of restrictions are in place for the in-person event at the Altice Arena, which organisers say is sold out. Attendees are expected to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test, and masks are required to be worn throughout the four-day conference.

"Everyone has been in lockdown for two years. Very few of us have been able to connect, so the excitement among attendees this year is palpable," says Paddy Cosgrave, co-founder and CEO at Web Summit


More than 700 speakers will be at Web Summit, including founders and chief executives from more than 70 tech unicorns – privately-owned companies valued at $1 billion (€860 million) or more.

Among those scheduled to appear this week are Microsoft president Brad Smith, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Amazon chief technology officer Werner Vogels, N26 co-chief executive Maximilian Tayenthal and the inventor of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee.


There is also star quality from the likes of actor Amy Poehler, musician Tinie Tempah and former footballer Thierry Henry, as well as speakers from the worlds of politics and humans rights, such as Black Lives Matters co-founder Ayo Tometi.

This year's event will likely be overshadowed by Facebook/Meta with whistleblower Frances Haugen addressing the conference on opening night. Hoping to put a more positive spin on the social media giant's business will be former British deputy prime minister and now Facebook vice-president of global affairs, Nick Clegg and chief product officer Chris Cox, who will be discussing, among other things, the company's rebrand.

Among the Irish names scheduled to speak at the event are Intercom co-founder Des Traynor, Manna chief executive Bobby Healy and the co-founders of Wayflyer, &Open, Orreco and Provizio.

Founded in 2010 by Mr Cosgrave, Daire Hickey and David Kelly, Web Summit started in Dublin with 150 attendees. It moved to Lisbon under controversial circumstances in 2016, where it has continued to grow.

Revenues at the group that operates the flagship conference and sister events rose to €47.9 million in 2019.

This year's Web Summit comes amid a falling out between Mr Cosgrave and Mr Kelly. Web Summit recently filed legal action against Mr Kelly and Patrick Murphy, the managing directors of the Amaranthine fund, after they established a new fund known as Semble Fund II, in which the event organiser is not a participant.

Web Summit has accused the two former business partners of secretly establishing Semble to profit from the company’s success. The allegations have been strenuously denied by Mr Kelly and Mr Murphy.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist