Web Summit to take place in Rio de Janeiro in its first move outside Europe

Company aims to create largest international tech event in South America

Tech conference Web Summit is expanding to South America, with plans to hold the event in Rio de Janeiro in May next year.

It will be the first time Web Summit has been held outside Europe, and could pave the way for more regional conferences to be held in some of the faster-growing markets around the world, such as Africa and Asia.

Web Summit chief executive Paddy Cosgrave said the event was committed to Rio for at least three years, with an option to extend that further. He said the partnership with the city would follow a similar framework to that agreed with Lisbon when Web Summit moved there from Dublin in 2016. He did not offer further detail on the arrangements.

However, Mayor of Rio Eduardo Paes said the city would not be putting in any direct money or sponsorship of the event, with Senac acting as the main sponsor.

Mr Cosgrave said the Rio Web Summit would be a brand new event that would bring thousands of international attendees to the city and help cement the rapidly growing tech scene there. The company is aiming to create the largest international technology event in South America, he said.

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"It will be our first Web Summit outside Europe and hopefully will shine a kind of ever-growing spotlight on the rapidly growing and vibrant ecosystem, not just in Brazil, but all of South America as well," he said. "[Brazil] has been a sleeping giant for a very long time, but things have really caught fire in recent years and the trend has only accelerated."

Speakers will be announced in the coming months.

The move to hold an event in Brazil has been teased for some time, with Mr Cosgrave travelling to Rio last year to meet with city officials.

Although the Rio event will share branding with the Lisbon Web Summit, Mr Cosgrave said the events would be different. “Initially they’ll be very, very different in terms of scale,” he said. “This is part of a wider plan for Web Summit of going to some of the most interesting markets in the world. I think it’s incumbent on Web Summit to grow its global brand.”

Web Summit was founded in 2009. Initially a 150-person gathering, the event has grown significantly, with more than 40,000 attending Web Summit in Lisbon before Covid-19 pushed it to a virtual platform in 2020.

The company behind Web Summit also holds events in Canada and Asia. Collision is Web Summit's North American technology conference, established in Las Vegas in 2014. The conference moved to New Orleans in 2016, and relocated to Toronto in 2019.

Its sister conference Rise was due to be held in March in Hong Kong as an in-person event. However, ongoing uncertainty over the Covid-19 pandemic led to its cancellation until next year.