Web Summit Ed2 Hero 4280X3287
interview 6 min. read

Web Summit.
It's time for an overview

Friday 12th December, 2022
In early November, a MakoLab team set off to Lisbon for Web Summit. The event proclaims itself to be one of the largest technology conferences in the world, bringing together representatives from all over the globe. Is that really the case, though? We asked our delegates, team manager Katarzyna Gorzechowska, head of quality assurance Dominik Smajek and project manager Grzegorz Sztandera, who were there for the first time. They talked to us about the inspirations they encountered in Portugal and their impressions of the event.
Apparently, this year’s Web Summit attracted more than seventy thousand participants and over two thousand start-ups. What were your expectations when you set off for an event of that magnitude? What captured your attention?

I work in our Financial Software Solutions business area. So, to start with, I think I paid more attention to the panels and start-ups focusing on financial solutions and to the directions they’re going in. It’s always good to get a glimpse of what others are doing and how they’re doing it. Mind you, inspiration hit me from a different direction. I work here as a team manager and, as it turned out, well-being theory and employer-employee relations were the focus of a great many of the talks and discussion panels, not to mention the start-ups. That triggered my leadership inclinations and they certainly made themselves felt!

I do have to say that, for me, it hit the spot. I took part in several masterclasses, which were an opportunity to exchange experience and knowledge in my own sphere. We’re all well aware of post-pandemic realities, especially in the IT sector. Working from home, cameras off, sometimes only someone once, during their job interview…

There are more than twenty people on my team and getting to know them in terms of their emotions and motivations is a challenge. It’s a widespread problem and, at MakoLab, we’re trying to solve it and improve things at the recruitment stage. I’m really pleased that we’re on trend, putting more and more emphasis on looking at personalities and not simply at what’s on an applicant’s CV and their technical skills… though we do check all that as well, of course.

I didn’t expect all this to appear as a topic at Web Summit, but I’m delighted that I discovered it there. It confirmed my conviction that the human factor is crucial and should never be underestimated.
I’m going to start with a risky and controversial statement. In my eyes, Web Summit proved to be a marketing and business event with technology in the background. I might not have been counting on coming across innovative ideas and technology, but I certainly thought that I’d run into considerably more than I did along the way. When I went to Lisbon, I wanted to see the kind of place technology companies are in at present, what start-ups have to offer and what direction we’re travelling in together.

I was happy to spend the days of the event looking around and talking to the people representing start-ups. What I didn’t expect, though, was that there’d be so many that are looking for funding but don’t have a technology stack. In addition, in my opinion, a lot of the solutions were based on derivative ideas or concepts where you’ll search in vain for innovations.

Of course, I need to emphasise that an innovative idea using artificial intelligence or machine learning, for instance, requires massive financial investment and some people actually came to Web Summit in search of just that. Nevertheless, I saw proposals and projects there for things that we’ve been doing at MakoLab for years now! The difference is this; all a start-up is offering is a fraction, while we embrace an entire ecosystem when it comes to servicing areas like the automotive sector, for example. Mind you, they do think globally. They do think big… their visions are many-million-dollar ones! And that’s an approach worth thinking about. When it comes to the marketing aspect of the event, though, I have to add that the overall approach to selling technology was theatre.
A bit like Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs had product. As far as Web Summit’s concerned, there was plenty of talk from the stage about what can be done… but there was no product and, sometimes, nothing concrete at all. Just a concept.

To sum up, what surprised me was that nothing surprised me. I’m thinking about technology and derivative ideas which might be spot on if they come at the right time. I’m not precluding that.
Me, I was all set to attend the talks. As you can imagine, with a week-long event there were plenty of them. My diary was wall-to-wall! So, at the beginning, I devoted my time to attending talks and panel discussions. It turned out that not all of them were on target and, as Dominik’s already mentioned, some of them were heavily sales orientated and light on content. So then I started venturing into the world of the start-ups.

I work in our DevOps department and I took a look at those technologies. I managed to find one start-up that’s involved in automating script writing. We swapped contact details and I think that the company’s worth keeping an eye on.

When it comes to the event as a whole, then I have to confess that my thoughts run along the same lines as Dominik’s. I’ve had the chance of attending other trade fairs of a similar size, but they were targeting the cable operator and telecommunications sectors and had a typical technological profile, with hardware and ready-to-use products and solutions as the crucial aspects. I know that start-ups are fighting for funding, but loads of them had nothing more than a well-outlined project and pretty packaging.
Web Summit Ed2 Card Image 3388X1120
Which countries predominated at the event? And what trends jumped out at you?

I don’t think anyone will be surprised when I say that Portugal, Spain and Italy were massively represented. The United Kingdom and France were also a presence, of course, and they dominated in terms of green solutions. I have to admit that a lot of the start-ups and panels were looking at ways to limit CO2 emissions.

To say that the number of exhibitors from the Far East was modest is to say nothing. I’m not sure that representation from that region constituted even 1% this year. There were single stands from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. One thing that certainly warrants emphasising though is that they came with finished products, not just ideas.

The event proclaims its global status. That might well be true of the movers and shakers, the visitors, decision-makers and investors. It’s just a pity that it wasn’t reflected in the start-ups.
As far as trends are concerned, it would have been hard to miss descriptions featuring wording like ‘artificial intelligence’, ‘machine learning’ and ‘blockchain’, but it didn’t take long to discover that what those stands were proposing was more by the way of loose concepts. As we’ve already said, we know that technology-based, innovative solutions require huge financial investment. That’s obvious. But so many of the concepts were derivative and that came as quite a shock.
Did you manage to encounter anything or anyone inspiring

Everyone I meet is an inspiration. Because, even if they share an ill-judged idea with you, it’s an indicator of what not to do or a prompt to do something differently. Web Summit is a massive event and we covered several kilometres a day there, trying to make sure that we saw as much as we possibly could.

Apart from the DevOps start-up I mentioned earlier, two others made an impression on me. One was presenting a solution that makes it possible to generate energy from plants. The other had ready-to-use hardware. As I said before, that was really rather rare. The product is a small device the size of cough drop or coin. It’s a stethoscope for examining patients and, at the same time, for monitoring their condition… their temperature, pulse and heart rate… on an ongoing basis. Nice!

I also came across a solution that I’d like to implement at MakoLab. It’s a bot that joins online meetings and compiles full notes, recording discussion topics that weren’t seen through to the end and action points and then sending them to all the participants. It’s worth emphasising that this is a ready-to-use solution and it works, although the Polish language isn’t supported yet.
I’m always interested in looking at technology relating to people, but rather apprehensive about it at the same time. I’m not always sure whether or not it will be used with good intentions. On the one hand, I’ve already mentioned the widespread problem of gaps in interpersonal relationships at work. On the other hand, I’m not completely convinced that software which scans peoples emotions during an online meeting is a solution I’d feel comfortable with.

I also attended a talk where a psychologist and a psychiatrist were weighing up how helpful a scan like that would be to online therapy. In the end, it might have the capability of capturing the tiniest shifts in a tone of voice or the most minute of nervous tics. Exciting? Yes. But ethical, no matter what the circumstances?
Something that grabbed my interest was a battery. If the project comes to fruition, it will be possible to recharge it thousands and thousands of times without damaging it. The person presenting it claimed that the number of times Tesla and Porsche batteries can be recharged ‘with full power’ is limited to no more than twice a month. If this new battery actually does what it says, then wow! It’s a forecast of a revolution. Cars, phones, drones, a whole range of devices. But will the power grid hold up?
What professional conclusions has Web Summit left you with?

MakoLab is in a good place, with extremely strong skills and powerful experience. We don’t just stand put from the crowd but, as I see it, we could also be a support for a number of the start-ups and companies we encountered in Lisbon. It might well be worthwhile giving that course of action some thought. But I’ve already passed those conclusions on…

Aleksandra Wesołowska 2
Aleksandra Wesołowska
Marketing Specialist

MakoLife, Bespoke Solutions, Digital Platforms, Digital Marketing, Employees, MakoLab Team, fairtrade