On my way back from Web Summit 2015 in Dublin, I would like to share a few observations. For me, those events have a fundamentally different spirit when I am a speaker or a visitor. This time I was here as an attendee to recharge my creative batteries and spend time with two outstanding teammates here at Sitrion, Markus Dopp & Markus von Aschoff.
The biggest boost I got in Dublin was actually offsite from the main event at a dinner with some Foundry folks. Learning what is going on in the hardware world is always fascinating to me as I spent my entire life in software. Also, being reminded about the exponential growth we’re experiencing every day was a refreshing reminder. Thanks Bart, Scott, and Rami.
One of my personal favorites was hearing Rana el Kaliouby, Co-Founder of Affectiva, and her talk on "Beyond AI: Our devices with emotional intelligence.” She did a live demo on stage, which earns her my respect, as that is how technology should be presented. I love the idea of our emotions participating in our digital interactions. It comes with a lot of responsibility and challenges, but those need to be addressed to make us better, more productive, and to address future adventures. She did a great job.
Another great experience was listening to Matt MacInnis, Founder of Inkling, about "How not to destroy your company's culture.” He shared a story how they had to reduce their staff to cope with changing market conditions. He had a simple way to define leaders:
- Tier 1 CEO: They preach and live the company values.
- Tier 2 CEO: They don’t preach values and care only for results.
- Tier 3 CEO: They preach the value but don't live by them.
It is a great reminder that our actions are more important than what we say. When asked about the best way to prepare for a major layoff, he said by the time you need to pull the trigger, it is already too late. Nothing matters aside a proper execution. The really relevant things happen years before, when you earned the trust of your people, so they know, just as you were transparent about the good news, you’re now openly sharing the bad news.
We need an upgrade
Those great experiences can’t hide the fact that Web Summit and Dublin need an upgrade. The appearances of the big guys like Google or Ford were underwhelming. If you have 15 minutes, you need to deliver something outstanding, beyond your standard pitch. Posting Elon Musk’s picture on your website to rely to past experiences is a good symbol on the stage of the event. Maybe we’ll see a new start with the move to Lisbon next year, as Dublin could use a modern upgrade. Driving in taxis that don’t accept credit cards, poor-performing 3G networks, and busses that just accept coins for payment are not ideal. While Dublin was an amazingly friendly host, that and a lot of Guinness is not enough to stay competitive. In closing, if you like hearing about interesting startups, here are Web Summit’s top 21 interesting startup picks.