November 9, 2021

Web Summit 2021: our story

Howdy! ๐Ÿ‘‹ We have been bragging about our trip to Lisbon for the last 3 weeks or so. We promise this will be the very last installment of this series and that it will be worth your time!ย 

The arrival

The weather was certainly more akin to London than Portugal. A bit cloudy with sporadic rain, but certainly good enough to stroll through the town and accommodate yourself before the Summit. Lisbon is a vast town with many districts and we loved the historic Alfama as well as more modern Moscavide. We highly recommend public transportation (including the Summit bus and metro) to save some time on transit. We will spare you further details of our private adventures the day before the Summit and focus on the event itself.

lisbon in october
On all postcards this picture is pristine. We had a really hard time not capturing the huge palm tree smack in the middle of it!

Day 1 - the party

First of all - registration. The Summit staff got this nicely covered - not only was there a tent right at the airport (with a HUGE sign next to arrivals, you really could not possibly miss it!), the 1st day before the Opening Night was all reserved for giving out badges.A bus clearly labeled WEB SUMMIT was cruising around the city and it was a great way to get to the venue.

Said Opening Night started at 5 PM and was a party to remember. Not gonna lie, we had some...inconvenience with finding ourselves there at first. Our tip for future attendees: meet somewhere before the entrance first, then enter as a group. Looking for individual people inside the amazing MEO Arena is truly hard. This is something we have been experiencing the next day, too.

web summit opening night
"Hey, I'm over at row 14543! Find the rest and let's grab a beer."

Day 2 - the joggers

Everyone attends conferences for a reason. These most commonly include searching for partners, customers and interesting services. Web Summit is no different here, though it has 1 major unique characteristic: it's huge. Like really, REALLY huge. Despite earlier registrations getting into the venue on the first day involved a 1-2 hours of waiting in a queue outside the Arena. Getting 42, 751 attendees (!!!) through the main entrance had to take time and we don't think anyone could do it much faster at such scale. We have been on some pretty big events, like IEM, but this was larger still and topped them all.

web summit queue
Fun fact: we actually held our first meeting remotely, in the queue.

Inside, as you can imagine, there were people everywhere. The whole Summit consisted of 4 main areas, between which there was a semi-open food court/passage. Each main Pavillion was its own small ecosystem, complete with a main stage, pitching stage, water & coffee distributors, startup booths and toilets. Going through all of it in a straight line was a 45-minute task alone.

web summit pavillion 4
Signs had to be placed at every step to show where on Earth you're currently at

We had some meetings planned before the Summit. Our initial plan was to find an easy to identify spot and try to invite our guests there. Oh boy, were we wrong. Not only was it hard to pinpoint a specific location ("I'm near the stage" was not enough - WHICH stage?), people tended to fall into 2 categories:

  1. Ones that could not find the spot for the life of them
  2. Ones that could, but arriving on time was problematic due to the sheer amount of people everywhere

Our tip: if you plan on attending the sessions & talks, do not come alone! You will need someone to cover for you & meet with people.

Summit also had its own App, complete with a schedule, meeting requests/calendar and chat. It was also used to scan badges in order to add new pokemo...attendees to your collection. The app usually did work, but had its hiccups and needs some UX, quality-of-life improvements to really shine and bring full value.

As a result, our first day was a bit chaotic. It involved a lot of running around and looking for folks. Ironically, this brought us some benefit: during our frantic back-and-forth jogs through the Arena we have met many interesting people doing literally the same thing. Some of these connections carry on still, and we are currently exploring partnership opportunities.


Day 3 - the booth

As an Alpha startup we were eligible for a booth on Day 3. One might assume that having a booth entails standing around and resting from the previous day. Well, not really.

The booths were slightly offset from the main route through the Pavillions and quite small to accommodate many different companies in a single venue. As a result, there were quite a few people looking for (and not finding) you, or wandering around with confusion on their faces. We have found that approaching them is a great idea. Can't count how many people we instructed where to find someone or something.

Even more good folks were actively looking for or at us. During the booth day we had a blast - potential customers and partners were flowing in. We had a strong team of 4 and at times every single member was busy talking with someone! Were it not for the abundant free water, our throats would certainly die on this day.

apropo booth web summit 2021
"You were looking for the toilet? Would you like to hear about our lord & savior of proposals first?"

On top of the scheduled and spontaneous meetings we also qualified for Mentor Hours. To be entirely frank, this concept suffered from Summit's scale. Startups could meet with mentors only in large groups (7-8 startups on 1 mentor!) and each group had around half an hour of time total. Realistically, you could ask 1 or 2 questions and that's about it. We're not quite sure how to improve on this though, as the number of attendees will only grow and it might be impossible to provide thousands of Mentors. Let's just say we're glad it's not our task to solve this problem.

Day 3 was the one that brought us the most customer leads and direct talks with people we needed. Having a booth at Web Summit is a great idea.

Day 4 - the wrap-up

On the fourth day things at last slowed down a little bit. Some people flew back home, others had done all their meetings & cruised around in a more leisurely pace. The relaxed atmosphere and smaller crowds did a fine job of encouraging social interactions and we welcomed it after the hectic previous 2 days.

apropo team in lisbon
A 4-strong team can still have their hands full at the Summit

Web Summit 2021: our summary

We have returned home exhausted and invigorated at the same time. Web Summit 2021 was chock-full of people and meetings. It really drained us and was a demanding experience. It's hardcore and as intensive as any tech event can be. At the same time, it brought us tremendous value. Our #leads Slack channel is busier than ever, and some strategic partnerships may allow us to explore new markets and get in front of our competitors.

Currently there is a huge promo for Summit 2022 tickets. Should you go? In our opinion: yes. If you're a startup (our peer) or software house (our customer), definitely bring at least 2 people. Schedule meetings, think about getting a booth and prepare for a wild ride. But, in the end, you will enjoy and appreciate this experience.

web summit exit
Thank you, too!

Educational content coming back soon ๐Ÿ‘‹


Michael Grubka
CEO at Apropo

Professional Salesman and Negotiator. 7 years of experience in IT sales with more than 70 deals closed and 500 estimates done. Co-owner of award-winning software development company.

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