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Highlights and learnings from Web Summit 2019

Last week, the European-based women of Convosphere’s Insights Team gathered in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon to attend the Web Summit. Widely known as the largest tech conference in the world, Web Summit is a global innovation hub that brings together people and companies “redefining the global technology industry.” Attracting over 70,000 visitors from across the globe, the event has been taking place each year since 2009 and Convosphere has been attending as a team since 2016.

Given its scale and diversity, covering all of Web Summit is an impossible task. But with our insatiable curiosity and eagerness to learn and collaborate, we certainly gave it our best shot. From round tables and one-on-ones to workshops and headlining talks, our schedules were fully booked for three days straight, from early morning until late evening.

Here’s a rundown of our highlights from Web Summit 2019.

Day 1

The good, the bad and the future of big data

Chaired by the data leaders of Walgreens Boots Alliance, JC Decaux and Xandr, this panel-based session discussed corporations’ data use in the age of artificial intelligence and micro-marketing. Recognising the importance of consumer insights to help companies better connect with their customers, the panel talked about the importance of GDPR and handling consumer data in a legal and ethical manner.

The panel at “The good, the bad and the future of big data” session.

What makes TikTok tick?

The World’s top app TikTok was the subject of this panel discussion. On stage, influencer Hannah Snow, SuperAwesome CEO Dylan Collins and Eklektik founder Natalie Monbiot, talked about the popularity of the app among young people, and the factors contributing to its immense growth. The way the app recognises the importance of users’ private data to remain private is pivotal, as privacy is a top consideration among tech-savvy Generation Z. Users’ ability to push their creativity beyond the restrictive Instagram and Snapchat formats was also said to have helped TikTok’s sudden growth. 

Winning in the feedback economy

SurveyMonkey’s CEO Zander Lurie presented an interesting perspective on social listening in this talk about consumer feedback. Advocating the importance of paying attention to consumers’ views, he warned that brands who fail at this will suffer in the long run. As netizens, particularly Gen Z, are quick to share negative experiences on public forums, companies have to be proactive and ensure a transparent dialogue with potential and existing customers. Furthermore, to win the acceptance of conscious consumers, brands need to clearly demonstrate that they take social issues (climate change, gender equality) seriously.

Zander Laurie kept the audience engaged during his session about the feedback economy.
Day 2

Going digital: It’s childsplay

The changing nature of play was the focus of this panel debate, hosted by representatives from Roblox and CNET. Using video games as an example, the guests explained why children nowadays don’t distinguish between seeing friends in an online environment and face-to-face the way older generations do. To today’s young people, socialising is the same, whether done in the same IRL space or via a digital channel. With this in mind, the panel discussed how to foster creative and safe digital play to prepare kids for the future.

Is Siri sexist?

This striking headline was undoubtedly successful in grabbing attendees’ attention. We were among many queuing up for a seat for this debate, which featured UNESCO’s Director for Gender Equality, Saniye Gülser Corat and tech journalist Esther Paniagua. While addressing the potentially harmful impact of digital tools, such as the default ‘subservient’ female voices of virtual assistants, the talk also highlighted how tech can help close the gender gap by, for example, allowing for flexible working.

Day 3

Democratising influencer marketing

We’re often asked by clients to rank the top influencers in their industry so the topic of this panel talk was very close to our hearts. The session examined influencer marketing and e-commerce, assessing the new online retail landscape and exploring the emergence of a more egalitarian model of social media influence. Founder and CEO of LetsBab, Bonnie Takhar, explained how her app allows anyone to benefit from sharing products with friends – even allowing users to make money, or charity donations, from their recommendations.

Bonnie Takhar (LetsBab) with fellow panel members Rachel Waller (Burberry), John Kinder (Saatchi), Brita Fernandez Schmidt (Women International) and Natalie Salmon (Harper’s Bazaar) discussing the democratisation of influencer marketing.

Harmonising urban mobility

In this workshop, a representative of digital location platform HERE talked about how to better systemise urban transport and mobility. We listened to their vision of intertwining public transport with other mobility opportunities, such as personal cars, ride-share vehicles, metered taxis, city bikes, delivery trucks, segways and e-scooters. The workshop initiated conversations about how mobility looked like in the participants’ hometowns (Amsterdam, Lisbon, Berlin, Moscow among others) and opened for discussions about how the future of cities will look like. 

…and here’s a glimpse of what else we got up to at and outside of the conference.


The team all ready for the first day at the summit.
Tamara Lucas, our Associate Director and self-proclaimed geek.
The Women in Tech lounge proved an ideal spot to rewind, update the schedule and catch up on work.

We had a brilliant time, met with plenty of interesting people and came home with a bunch of new ideas which we’re excited to implement in our work.  We are already looking forward to next year’s edition. See you in 2020!

Here’s how we enjoyed Web Summit 2018.