Web summit 2018 began on Monday November 5. This year more than 70,000 people have been joined by CEOs and founders of the world’s biggest companies and the most exciting new startups, as well as influential investors and leading journalists. The summit aims to tackle the big challenges facing tech industry today – and this year, issues aren’t in short supply.
Day 2 of this year’s Web Summit saw a range of really interesting perspectives on everything including industry diversity, fake news, and mixed reality. With so many great conversations happening, it’s hard to pick out highlights. However, we tried our best – take a look at what we think are the key things from day 2 in Lisbon.
5 highlights from day 2 of Web Summit 2018
Slack wants to grow its user base 6,000%
Slack co-founder Cal Henderson spoke at Web Summit on Monday, telling an interesting story about how he set up Slack – he started out building an online gaming company, and ended up redefining professional communication.
But the biggest news was the extent of Slack’s ambition. Henderson revealed that Slack plans to increase its user base 6,000% – from 8 million users to an astonishing 500 million.
One of the key challenges for Slack, he explained, is simply getting people to shift from old ways of working. “Email has been the primary mode of communication inside business for more than 30 years. Convincing people, or just really telling people that there’s a different way to work, I think, is the biggest challenge,” he said.
Magic Leap showcases ‘spatial computing’ with a new mixed reality product
Brenda Freeman, Chief Marketing Officer at Magic Leap spent some time showing off Magic Leap One, and their new Project Create software. Despite the delays, it looks like they might be on the cusp of a breakthrough when it comes to mixed reality.
“Four years ago, our equipment was large enough to fit in a refrigerator, it took a few years to perfect.” – Brenda Freeman
Project Create looks like a powerful complement to the Magic Leap One. It’s described as a ‘digital playground’ that helps users to fully realise Magic Leap One’s incredible capabilities.
Freeman talked a lot about the concept of ‘spatial computing’ – Project Create brings this to life, and is perhaps an important stepping stone in embedding the technology in everyday life. Essentially, Magic Leap’s technology brings virtual objects into the real world – these objects ‘respond’ to human actions, such as eye movements.
Diversifying the workforce: a problem we still need to fix
Diversity in tech has been an issue that has been particularly pertinent in 2018, thanks to a combination of the #metoo movement and wider concern about ethics in software engineering. However, while it might feel like things are progressing, the facts state otherwise: the number of female CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies has fallen by 25% this year.
This was the context of the conversation between Wall Street Journal journalist Thorold Barker and Vera Jourovo (from the European Commission) and Gillian Tans, president of Booking.com. Tans suggested that we’re allowing cultures to simply exist – it takes effort to effect change.
A brighter future for Europe’s tech scene?
There’s a reason there’s no real equivalent to Silicon Valley in Europe – the money simply isn’t there.
And while that probably isn’t going to change any time soon, a conversation between Par Jorgen Parson (Northzone), Reshma Sohoni (Seedcamp) and Harry Nelis (Acce) indicates that the outlook for the European tech scene isn’t actually all doom and gloom.
They offered some really useful insights for European tech entrepreneurs, discussing the potential advantages of gaining investment from European investors. In particular, they stressed that local capital could be useful for very new startups, and that reaching out for help is essential.
Tackling fake news through education
Technology has undoubtedly been instrumental in getting us into our current ‘fake news’ predicament. This was the topic of conversation between Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, the Guardian’s David Pemsel, and Mitchell Baker from Mozilla.
For Brnabic, education is key in tackling the effects of fake news. She said “the best way to fight against false news is investing in education and that is why Serbia is investing in a change in the concept of education – we are teaching young people how to think and not what to think.”
Nico Rosberg talks decision making in a world that’s moving quickly
Former Formula One driver Nico Rosberg recently made a move into tech entrepreneurship. Asked about the similarities between formula one and business he said “as a Formula One driver… you’re pushing the boundaries all the time. And the most important thing to help you make the right decision under pressure is all the preparation that goes into it beforehand… every little thing counts.”
Joining TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer on stage, Rosberg also talked about the importance of trust. “I’ve built up a trusted inner-circle for myself of people that are absolute experts in analyzing, in a way that I’ll never be… they’re the best at what they do.”
Rosberg, an investor in SpaceX also said he wasn’t concerned with Elon Musk’s increasingly erratic behavior. “He’s always pushing the boundaries… what he has done for all of us and for our planet is so huge.”
How the auto industry can manage disruption
Self-driving cars are perhaps one of the best examples of the tech industry disrupting not only an industry, but even our entire way of life. This was the theme of a talk asking Is the auto industry at a crossroads?
Featuring Marek Reichman from Aston Martin Lagonda, Martin Hoffman from Volkswagen, and Carsten Breitfeld from BYTON, a number of issues emerged, with legislation and regulation standing out as a crucial unknown in the future of autonomous vehicles.
“It will be driven by societies, not by our companies” said Breitfeld, highlighting that the issues raised by autonomous vehicles – its positive and negative impact – goes far beyond the small number of businesses currently at the forefront of innovation.
Breitfeld also spoke about the future of vehicle automation in terms of platforms. “All the traditional companies eventually will build electric cars, that’s not a problem,” he said. This means that it simply doesn’t make sense for entrepreneurs to get into the self-driving car business, but instead to think of themselves as platform businesses, building the services and software that will allow established companies to easily develop automated vehicles.