Top 3 Takeaways from the 2014 Web Summit in Dublin
Updated: Jun 10, 2019
We were invited to check out Europe’s leading technology conference in Dublin, the 2014 Web Summit. Centered on Internet technology, this year’s attendees and speakers included prominent leaders from various startups, VCs, media companies, and other related industries. The Summit has a pretty amazing story- from 400 people less than 5 years ago to over 20,000 people this year, capped off by ringing open the NASDAQ on the first day. Pretty impressive! Among the 20,000+ people that attended this year, were the CEOs of Dropbox, Tinder, the Huffington post, the producers of House of Cards, and of course, local celebrity, Bono. In addition to a central stage, there were several other stages with speakers and panels from more specific industries, including Machine, Enterprise, Sports, Builders, Marketing, and Library.
Between presentations, our team was able to check out the vibrant pub scene and chat to a few pretty cool people, including grabbing a drink with the founders of Sherpa Ventures (the founders not only each other at a previous Web Summit, but also Uber, which they backed early on) and actor, Adrian Grenier (Vince Chase from Entourage).
The worst photo of all time featuring our own Andrew Collins, Adrian Grenier, Sherpa Ventures, Eileen Wu & Padmasree Warrior
Needless to say, it was pretty hectic, but there were a few standout presentations and themes from the Summit.
Content was probably the biggest theme at the Summit this year. Across all industries, many of the presentations were centered around the changing role of media, technology, and the Internet. Media panelists, ranging from the old school New York Times to the digitally-savvy Huffington Post and Business Insider, debated new business models for media companies- is ad revenue enough? Could paywalls work? And even tech companies as well as brand names pondered the role of content for them- are previous platform providers now also the new content providers? Do brands need to create content as well to cut through the white noise of the Internet? The producer Dana Brunetti, of Netflix’s wildly successful show “House of Cards” and the oscar winning ‘Social Network’ explained the fascinating change in what and how media and entertainment is being consumed. House of Cards was the first program released in it’s entirety by Netflix, which at the time went against most viewing logic. He went to say with much broader distribution channels being used by companies as Google, HBO, Netflix, Hulu and others ‘”If I owned a studio, I’d make movie theaters pay me.” While the variety of opinions didn’t lead to any conclusive answers, it’s clear that content is going to be a key factor for any company and brand looking to lead in the digital marketplace.
The Producer of ‘House of Cards’ Dana Brunetti talking about the shift in film/TV distribution
Another running theme was the importance of the consumer. While there was obviously an emphasis on new technologies, presentations on user experience, user engagement, and consumer-centric technology dominated talks from Nike to Beyonce’s digital team.
HuffPost CEO & FlipBoard Founder having it out – You’ll notice the Huffpost CEO couldn’t dare look at Mr FlipBoard
Furthermore, there was a much more optimistic, humanistic tone to this conference than the more apocalyptic tone that filled last year’s tech conferences. While issues like hacking and digital privacy were brought up, thankfully, the phrase, “post-Snowden world,” was only mentioned a few times (as opposed to this past year’s SXSW), and the development of new technology seemed to be viewed through a far more empowering lens: how technology is helping people and what potential new developments have for society. Urthecast, a Canadian company whose high definition cameras installed on the International Space Station will allow public access to examine places and events around the world, had a wonderfully positive message on how access to these incredibly high definition images will allow people to not only see and add social tags to their little patch of the world, but also each other and the world as a whole.
Overall, a fantastic experience that bodes well for the technology and entrepreneur scene in Europe and around the world. Though China was mentioned a few times, still a surprising lack of coverage and speakers from China, especially given Alibaba’s epic IPO. However, plans are apparently in the making for a similar event to take place in Asia next summer, so stay tuned!