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November 29, 2022 // Ahmad Aboushagor  //       //  Opinion

Scaling the Peak: Web Summit 2022, Lisbon

A maze of confusion and faces everywhere. That was my first impression of Lisbon as I arrived at the airport desperately trying to find my taxi pick-up.

Second impression of Lisbon: sunshine streaming everywhere, a far cry from a dull and rainy London that I’d left behind. Approaching the Altice Arena, the famous stadium where the Web Summit opening ceremony takes place, the sheer scale of the queue was breathtaking. More than 70,000 people registered to attend this year’s event, and as the opening ceremony kicked off with a cascade of multi-coloured lights dancing around the stadium, it certainly felt like something special was about to begin. Little did I know…

Breakout start-ups building the future of all manner of industries; Portuguese politicians extolling the benefits of starting up a company in Portugal; fireside chats with journalists and senior decision makers from the likes of the Times and global giants, such as Binance and Apple; and a special unannounced appearance from Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s wife touching on the responsibility technologists have to build technologies that can be used for good rather than bad. Web Summit’s opening ceremony had it all. 

On the first full day of the conference, A+P London Executive Vice President and Web Summit veteran Susie Hughes joined me, and together we dove into several days of networking, information gathering and catching up with clients. So what were our key takeaways from the event?

  • Web3 and Crypto, Enter Centre Stage: There was a huge crypto presence at this year’s Web Summit with talks, fireside chats and Q&As from CEOs and senior decision makers from companies, such as Binance, Société Generale, Dapper Labs and more.  Prominent decision makers and thought leaders covered everything from Central Bank Digital Coins (CBDCs) and how financial institutions interact with crypto, to marketing in Web3 and beyond. It’s abundantly clear interest in crypto isn’t going away any time soon. And despite the froth in the market over the past 12 months from the Luna crash to the liquidity struggles at crypto exchanges Block-Fi and FTX - which at the time of writing have progressed far beyond initial impressions (!) - monitoring evolutions in the sector will continue to be top of mind for financial services institutions, governments and investors alike.
  • When it came to discussions around the future of marketing and PR, two talks in particular stood out - a fiery Q&A session with the legendary Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP and S4 Capital fame and a deep dive into connecting with developer communities with Khalid El Khatib, CMO at developer community platform Stack Overflow. When pressed for his thoughts on how AI and machine learning are changing the creative industries, Martin was bullish on their impact and how they affect everything from speed to market to affordability and flexibility. He also forecast regions, such as the U.S., South America and the Middle East, as territories with significant growth potential moving into 2023 and beyond - which I’m sure raised a few eyebrows in the audience!
  • On the other hand, insights from Khalid’s talk focused on the practicalities of marketing today, touching on everything from the importance of community as a sector agnostic competitive differentiator, to how developers on Stack Overflow have in many ways predicted the future of advertising through their approach to blocking ads by way of extensions and similar technologies. Khalid also noted Web 3 companies have been way ahead of the curve where investing in communities is concerned - something else to keep an eye on the sector for.
  • We also caught up with a fair few of our journalist friends at the event and asked them about their views on Web Summit in its 13th year. Senior editors and correspondents from the U.S., UK and Ireland told us that while Web Summit itself isn’t the news anymore, it’s still an absolutely critical event for keeping up to date with advancements in tech and business and a great opportunity to catch up in person with key players who travel far and wide to attend. Web Summit has always attracted the highest caliber of speakers, and each year aligns its discussions around the most vital topics, such as with the launch of the crypto-focused stage this year.

There’s no doubt attending Web Summit is a must if you’re interested in or work around technology and how it is shaping society in any way - and if you’re interested in exploring how we can work together to help you share your voice and insights at the event, don’t hesitate to reach out to me, Susie and the team at Allison+Partners - let’s connect!

Ahmad joined Allison+Partners in June 2022 as senior account manager. With more than five years of experience in both B2B and B2C PR & communications, he has worked to drive communications campaigns, thought leadership and media relations programmes for companies across sectors and verticals. This includes a mix of media and marketing companies, high growth technology scale-ups and established corporates, as well as investment firms and venture capital funds. 

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