Web Summit 2019: Highs and Lows

November 13, 2019

We just returned from another hectic week at Web Summit in Lisbon and we now find ourselves evaluating the experience and whether or not a third year of attendance is in our future. Although we love the opportunity to visit sunny Portugal, it might be that Web Summit is getting a little too big and too crowded to really be worth the trip. To wrap up our experience we have pulled out a few takeaways and notable experiences from the event, both negative and positive. Here are our thoughts…


Although this was our second time at Web Summit, we had forgotten how insanely busy it is. Having signed a new contract, Web Summit will be in Lisbon for another 10 years and they need keep growing to make it a profitable venture both for Paddy Cosgrove and Co but also for the Portuguese government who gave Paddy an €11 million incentive to host the Summit in Lisbon.

To that end, this year they welcomed 70,000 delegates, 10,000 more than last year and probably about 50,000 more than should be there. There was an average queue wait of 1.5 hours for opening night thanks to local police being extra careful apparently, although having just one entrance for two endless queues and only a 15,000 capacity main stadium seems a bit shortsighted.  In general, we found it quite difficult to get seats at the talks we were interested in throughout the event.

Web Summit is the eponymous annual event of the year that draws in a huge crowd from across the globe, including start ups from over 168 countries. Tech’s big players usually all have a stand, and one that aims to draw in as many eager attendees as possible. The Alpha and Beta and Growth startups usually get to exhibit for one day of the three day conference. So the eager eyed or veteran websummiters will know that not only have you got to listen to as many talks as possible, you also have to loop around each of the ginormous pavilions daily to weed out the good stuff verse the bad.

I must say that for the intrepid Web Summit explorer or start-up founder it is very easy to get overwhelmed at this event. I imagine some founders rise feeling on top of the world and others wilt away, conscious that they are a mere speck of micro-plastic in an ever plasticised ocean of despair.

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Despite the overcrowding, there were definitely a few brands and speakers that stood out to us…


Ethical cosmetic brand, Lush, notoriously private and relatively low-key from a branding perspective turns out to have a 200 strong digital team that spend time designing and making their own digital products and services. A couple of interesting things to note. 

  1. Apparently they used to demo each of their famous bath bombs to customers on demand which meant a whole lot of water wastage and not to mention the use of an entire product. Instead, they are now testing a concept store where you can use your phone, point it at a bath-bomb, and it will show the ingredients and foaming qualities in your preferred language negating the need for any packaging or signage and therefore being universal and less wasteful.
  2. They have been also been working to reduce the carbon footprint across the board which includes deciding that iPads or Samsung tablets are not green enough. So, they have been sourcing reputable Chinese factories with the greenest credentials to design and prototype their own tablet to use in store as a Point of Sale (POS) system. I can’t work out if this is genius or an insane waste of time? I’m assuming they’ve factored in the trips, moulds, testing needed to design and make their own hardware.

Almond is an interesting new start up brand to look out for as it seeks to raise their Series A round having previously raised £700k from friends and family. The app is available now as a beta on iOS and seeks to help people live more sustainably and nullify their carbon output in a meaningful way e.g. “Buy Better, Act Better & Offset the Rest.” To start off, a friendly chatbot interface guides you through a series of questions to help estimate your carbon footprint. Once you know it, you can help to reduce it by making purchases from sustainable brands and paying to plant or protect trees. There are definitely still some bugs to work out in the beta version, but we like where they are headed with it. If you are interested in learning more about offsetting your carbon emissions, it’s a topic covered frequently on our Nature Bantz podcast series.


Kumi Naidoo, the Secretary-General of Amnesty International was one of the best speakers we saw all week. He spoke at length about the importance of activism and how the biggest threats facing humanity today are climate change followed closely by technology, data collection and surveillance. Although he certainly didn’t sugarcoat the dire situation we are in, he made a point to give concrete examples of hope and how we can continue to work together to change our fate. We still think he should have gotten a standing ovation!

There were a few other interesting speakers and of course the evenings spent at Night Summit are always good fun, but overall the crowds and hassle might have outweighed the positive aspects for us this year. That being said, by the time autumn 2020 rolls around we may have forgotten all about the queues and be ready for another week of madness in Lisbon. Stay tuned!

This little insight was brought to you by Shane Henderson, Project Manager here at Furthermore and Go Jauntly.

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