Our first day at WebSummit comes with mixed reviews. The mix of start-ups to investors means it’s something of a meat market with the Alphas assigned to a small booth for one of the three days during the event. That wasn’t a big surprise, however the ratio of investors to startups (Alpha & Betas) means that getting time with investors seems challenging at best.
The choice of opening speakers was also not pitched at the level I expected. The opening talk, ‘Life with Robots’, was interesting enough, but it wasn’t gripping nor did it really push anyone’s thinking and WebSummit isn’t hurting for some top speaking talent. For example, later in the afternoon the CEO of Kickstarter (Yancy Strickler) spoke about how his company was evolving in terms of their ethical commitment to being a good company. I would have led with the Kickstarter story – it plays well to investors, startups and the media. And it should be noted, that Yancy just seems to be one of the nicest people in business – ‘doing good’ seems to underpin every decision he makes (which is awesome).
There were also some issues with regards to the capacity management for different talks. The StartUp University had crowds queuing up for 45 minutes or more to take a space in a ~80 seat area, whilst the large Marketing Summit stage (~300+) was almost empty for many of the talks. Given the focus on StartUps, it seems obvious that events relating to the lion share of the attendees would be over subscribed.
It definitely wasn’t all bad – we got to listen to a number of really good talks.
A talk about how technology can work to help with EU migrants and refugees showcased the good that people can achieve by applying innovative thinking to make a positive real-world difference (this included TechCrunch, Unicef and Startupboat).
It was also interesting to hear about how communities in New Orleans and in Kosovo are focusing their efforts to build technology innovation hubs – one as a newly declared country, the other as a community redefining themselves after an extended period of decline.
As we were not manning any stand today, the bulk of our investor activity came from our seasoned sales lead who was literally jumping at anyone with an Investor or Partner badge. The results were actually fairly positive, with most giving great feedback and some asking for further information. Without this ‘proactive’ approach, there would have been little opportunity to actually have any discussions.
And with that we head into the evening – where the promotional material suggests much ‘wheeling and dealing’ will happen over beers in the Dublin nightlife; this is collectively called NightSummit.
Tomorrow we’re on our stand and have every intention of making the most of the opportunity. We have our printed brochures, combo-cards and a real interest to find good partners – more than investors, we’re looking for people who share our values and can help us grow accordingly.
We should stand out tomorrow – unlike most Alphas, we already have a working solution, that has paying customers and are talking to some leading telecoms, finance and beverage companies. We may be older than 90% of the startup teams, but hopefully our years are a good thing – the need to pay mortgages, put kids through schools and give up nicely paying day-jobs definitely focuses our thinking.