Entrepreneurship21 November 20195 min

Web Summit 2019: Here’s What We Learned

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Web Summit, the annual technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal is considered the largest tech event in the world. This year over 70,000 attendees came to discover what the future holds for technology. Hot topics included emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), and venture capitalism. Looking back at the main takeaways, we see some serious overlap with the values ​​Start it @KBC stands for!

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#1 AI is just the beginning

AI remains the driving trend of the current wave of digital disruption. However, we were urged to keep in mind that AI is a means, not a goal in itself or a miracle solution. The Web Summit featured several panels on specific applications of AI in various sectors. For a lot of speakers, including Lenovo’s Global Chief Digital Officer Paul J. Walsh, customer centricity remains the ultimate priority.

As Spiderman’s uncle said, “with great power, comes great responsibility.” An enormous amount of attention at the Web Summit was devoted to responsible AI and the more responsible titans of tech, including GAFA. It is becoming more important for tech to be inclusive and not just to benefit the elite few. Companies like Google and Amazon are stepping up their CSR game with initiatives focusing on global social challenges. And virtually all of the speakers on the issue of regulation found that regulations should be stricter, smarter and speedier: the market can’t solve everything. This also applies to corporate self-regulation.

American whistleblower Edward Snowden gave one of the summit’s most memorable talks. In 2013 Snowden released information from the National Security Agency exposing the US government’s mass surveillance system. Speaking on live video from Russia, he insisted that it isn’t data protection that is the problem, but data collection: "so is GDPR an answer to the wrong question?” Snowden called for individuals to be more aware of how their data is exploited by big tech, saying "show them that they don't have to trust.” He also emphasised that there were essential data collection issues entrenched in the business models of big tech.

#2 Corporate & startups join forces

The corporate world was solidly present at the summit, but corporates all came with the same attitude of readiness to share their infrastructure, tools and software with startups, scaleups and the like. In other words, they recognise the value of having startups and scaleups in their ecosystem and don’t necessarily see them as competitors. This spirit of collaboration opens up new perspectives for corporate venturing, where startups and corporates team up. It’s impossible to deny the value of joining forces: it allows big companies to innovate faster and with the newest technologies, while startups gain access to bigger networks and more capital. This is exactly the idea behind Start it @KBC corporate accelerator Start it X, which helps corporations get their innovation ventures live.

#3 A focus on mental well-being

Ambition may have been in the air at the Web Summit, but there was also a strong emphasis on staying sane and healthy. Leaders like Mozilla chairman Mitchell Baker admitted to having struggled with burnout. It’s a recurring theme among tech founders and important to create more awareness around. It’s also an issue close to our heart and the reason it founded the Mental Well-being Academy. We simply love supporting founders in making positive choices keeping their health and well-being in mind. Yes - at Start it @KBC, we believe that a healthy work environment is one where we can share not only our successes, but also our failures, so that startups can learn from and support each other.

#4 Sustainability is hotter than ever

Sustainability remains an extremely hot topic in tech circles, and at the Web Summit it presented a new edge: very goal-oriented, no fluff, just real action. Several speakers presented sustainable initiatives, including pop phenomenon Jaden Smith who presented his clean water projects 501cTHREE.org and JUST water. Google announced their new accelerator for sustainable tech, which already says enough. And it’s no secret that Start it @KBC also treasures sustainability. Not only are many of our startups engaged in sustainable enterprise, we also have several partners with whom we stimulate the circular economy. And have you listed to our circularity podcast yet?

If you would like to learn more about what’s hot in the world of entrepreneurship, check out our other blog posts!