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After a pandemic-induced break, Web Summit 2021 returned – in real life! Known as one of the biggest and most popular tech conferences in the world, how did this year’s event measure up? Some of our team, who were lucky enough to attend, share their experiences…

Louise, Customer Success Engineer – Web Summit 2021 attendee 

Web Summit 2021 was a much-needed return to ‘normality’. I’m not just referring to travelling, new sights and sounds, and an event with thousands of bodies; I’m referring to connection. 

After a couple of years of not having met any of my colleagues due to the pandemic, it was so good to see their smiling faces again, to hug them and to share (a lot of!) laughs over (quite a few) glasses of wine. Working from home can be quite isolating, so it’s nice to have the opportunity to cram a year’s worth of interaction into a few days together.

Web Summit is always my favorite event because of its location. The city of Lisbon has everything that you could possibly ask for. The old, the new, the tastes, culture and diversity. It has an infectious buzz that makes you feel alive, whilst at the same time, relaxing to start afresh when you return home. We stayed in a gorgeous art hotel with a bar that served up live music each night. Despite the chill, we sat outside and spent hours people-watching and talking in-depth nonsense. The people were so friendly and helpful, despite my embarrassing argot of Portu-span-glish when trying to ask for a coffee. A sing-song obrigada usually helped to break the ice. 

The event itself felt safe, despite the years that had preceded it. If it weren’t for so many masked faces and an extra Covid-cert checkpoint at the entrance, you could be forgiven for believing that the last two years had even happened. The range of speakers was impressive and it was interesting to have a front-row seat to Chris Cox’s discussion of the Metaverse, while audience members silently protested the company with flickering mobile flashlights in the crowd behind us. There was an emphasis on Women in Tech but it felt like the word “empowerment” was perhaps becoming a bit of a buzz-word with little substance behind it. 

The evenings were ours and we took a taste tour of the city, following our noses each night. We fell in love time and time again and experienced a passionate fling with cheeses, pumpkin jam, meat platters, mini chocolates, puppies, port in borrowed shot glasses, pastéis de nata, Douro and green wines. 

Until next year, Lisbon, tchau tchau e obrigada!

Teresa, Social Media Manager & Customer Success Engineer

It comes as no surprise that our trip to Web Summit 2021 was fantastic! These trips are so special to me. We have a change of scenery (away from the screen!), learn something new in the world of tech AND get to spend time with some of our colleagues. One of the best things about Web Summit – and it’s one of the reasons why we have chosen to attend this event again and again – is that it is held in Lisbon. Definitely one of my favorite cities! 

This year, I took the opportunity to go a few days before the event started so I could discover the city. Along with my colleague, James, I joined in on a city tour, where we got to explore the streets and their history with our tour guide, Gabrielle. We were taken to see one of the avós (the grandmas), who’s a regular fixture on the tour route (as she no longer has any family in the town, and the daily visits stop her feeling lonely) and she gave me a pendant of Antonio de Padua (St Antony, the patron saint of lost things). Funnily enough, James and I had just been talking about how I had been pickpocketed in Lisbon before, so I will treasure that moment always. 

It’s also a great city for its food and wine (in particular green wine, Ginjinha and pastéis de nata), which we got to enjoy (maybe a bit too much!) after the event each day. Although this year’s Web Summit theme was not related to email or CX (as it had done in previous years), it was full of inspirational talks, a few famous faces and got me thinking I should have perhaps invested in Bitcoin a while ago! Ha! Although I am glad to be home after a week of laughs and overindulging, I miss the City of Light and hope to return soon! Bora

James, Customer Success Engineer

Visiting Lisbon has always been a pleasure… But, as this was my first time at Web Summit, I didn’t really know what to expect from the event. The venue for Web Summit 2021 was Altice Arena, so I had assumed that all goings-on would take place within the same mini stadium. Little did I know the arena itself was just the center stage and the bulk of the event took place across three aircraft hangar-sized warehouses, separated by a network of outdoor food courts that were occupied by the Sagres-drinking attendees. 

Everything was carefully thought out and well organized, even down to the emergency shuttle bus service that replaced the metro whilst the workers rightly took the opportune moment to walk out on strike. The stages and topics varied across the days, though each day there was a lot on offer. Talks ranged from urban planning to space travel, from robotics to psychedelics. There were CEOs, celebrities, shy start-ups looking for funding and investors looking for their next project. People were friendly, the speakers compelling, the start-ups intriguing, and the atmosphere was somewhat inspiring. Although, perhaps this was down to the ‘motivational music’ that filled the silence between talks?!

The big question on every speaker’s mind was “where do we go from here?” This seemed to be guiding everyone from the smallest of start-ups to Facebook. Talks were less of a showcase of what each company was doing, and more a vision for the future. Either the future for their product or their vision for the future of the world. Some optimistic, some scary, and some simply inconceivable. Whether the industry was social media or marketing, however, there appeared to be genuine shared ambition to bring people together after months of world-wide isolation. This was another reason I really enjoyed my time there. Although masked, this was the first large-scale event I have been able to attend in years and, to top it off, I was finally able to meet some colleagues face-to-face to share wine and gossip on the tiled Portuguese pavements of old Lisbon.

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