Web Summit 2017 Keynotes
Let me start with a disclaimer that it’s almost impossible to do the coverage of the whole Web Summit. Around 60,000 attendees, more than 1,200 speakers talking at Money Conf, HealthConf, Content Makers, AutoTech/Robot, Full stack, SaaS, Planet Tech, and other event conferences and numerous startup companies representing their solutions. If you focus on networking and business opportunities, it takes almost all of your time. I had around 22 scheduled meetings plus talking to people from global logistics corporations, automotive companies and other booths to find out about their offerings at Web Summit and promote Sigma Software.
However, since the whole event is about new and trending topics & technologies, you simply can’t skip them. And here are some of keynotes.
Traditionally, Paddy Cosgrave, CEO and Co-Founder of Web Summit, together with Portuguese government and City of Lisbon authorities opened the event. However, it’s not the VIP people present at the ceremony that excite interest, but the key topic defining the ultimate subject matter of the conference – Artificial Intelligence.
Al Gore with his passionate speech about Paris agreement, climate protection, and being responsible to the planet where we live
A video with Stephen Hawking saying that “There is no difference right now between the results that can be achieved by a biological brain and the computer. AI is taking over and it can be either the great success of the humanity or the worst. We must maximize societal benefit and make technologies work for the benefit of humanity in the first row.”
Bryan Johnson, the former CEO of Braintree and now the CEO of Kernel (https://kernel.co/), was speaking after Stephen Hawking. Kernel is a neurotechnology company developing an interface to help researchers and clinicians better understand neurological diseases and dysfunctions, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, depression and anxiety. Bryan has pointed out that “we will witness the revolution at the scale we haven’t seen before, and it will be on the threshold in 15-20 years.” The speech also greatly emphasized on being cautious and taking human kind as the top priority. However, he noted that while we are speaking about the development of machine learning, AI, security, etc., we never mention the brain. People must get adaptive to withstand the challenges the technologies are imposing on us.
Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition, was talking about fair play and tech. She noticed that obviously the technologies are penetrating more and more into everyday life (including the suspicions of Russia interfering with the presidential elections in the US). But apart from that, Margrethe has reported on some of the successful cases of posing billion-euro fines to Apple, Amazon, and Google for avoiding tax payments (here is an article with top 10 cases initiated by Margrethe Vestager against global corporations). An important note from her is that the European Union has built the market, which operates successfully, but you have to intervene into its operation to make sure that it’s a democracy, but not a jungle. The commissioner’s activities are governed by the only goal – bring back the trust of people to technology companies.
Google Booth at Web Summit
Another talk dedicated to investment forecasts was called “Where am I putting my money in 2018?” The speakers were Jim Breyer (Breyer Capital) and Dana Settle (Greycroft). Dana believes that we should invest in core technologies, practical and simple applications, like personal assistants to people with certain health problems to be able to track heart rate, activity periods, etc. Jim had a well-defined answer for that question – AI and machine learning. Essential AI application areas: in healthcare – we still lack the necessary amount of data to fight cancer, there’s still lots of development to be done. In Fintech, we can marry the array of external data and scenarios with internal company data; in e-commerce, AI can help search for the products the client is particularly interested in. Jim Breyer analyzes the world situation in terms of AI centres and believes that right now the Universities, such as MIT and Stanford form the greatest community for AI developing. China does the same at its scale. He believes that China is the second largest world centre of AI development and Chinese experience can be applied to other regions as well.
"Where am I putting my money in 2018?" Speech
Cryptocurrencies and blockchain will be popular in the developing countries, since they don’t have that much of established financial institutions, which can hinder the technologies expansion. The current cash flow will be directed to VCs to support entrepreneurship. VCs will gain momentum, since there is a great appetite for technology business.
What will be the next greatest Silicon Valley? Jim believes that Universities will play the ultimately important role in technologies, namely AI development, while Dana believes that Silicon Valley will be shaped by the ecosystem of the existing big enterprises in a certain area and the number of startups introducing innovative solutions. And this can be Stockholm in the nearest future, where they have Spotify, Skype, lots of Unicorns, and a great startup community.
Another remarkable tendency worth mentioning. Enterprises are desperately seeking innovations. A startup ecosystem in the form of incubators, accelerators or innovation hubs is set up around large companies.
The main idea with enterprises is that they are very slow, traditional, and extremely rigid. I’ve spoken to a representative of a big logistics company and he told me that every enterprise is involved in a struggle between adopting digitalization and sticking to standard practices.
I’ve also talked to a head of startup accelerator from a big aviation company. He said that they are always on the lookout for new startup companies bringing up disrupting ideas. In-house IT department follows standardized procedures and very slow to introduce changes. It’s much easier to have a number of startup companies in the ecosystem and help them go live in the aviation market.
One of the startups that I’ve spoken to is Bizpay (http://www.bizpay.co.uk/), and its CEO and CSO. The idea behind the startup is simple, but extremely helpful. At the checkout, when you are paying for the goods (or plane tickets in this case), you get an option “Pay later”, by installments. The user gets fixed amounts for each installment, without additional APR or interests, which is deducted from the credit card specified at the checkout process. Easy. Transparent sums and workflow for a customer, stable cash flow for the company. No agreements with the bank are required for a user. At the moment, Bizpay is approaching various aviation companies to market the idea and adopt it in their e-commerce procedures. This is very much aligned with NDC (New Distribution Capabilities) and making aviation-related services flexible, customer oriented, Amazon-like services as Andrey Moroz mentioned in his published article.
The list can go on with other companies as well. Since we have several R&D solutions in automotive, I’ve approached Mercedes and Volkswagen. Mercedes had a huge stand and was sponsoring the Pitch winner this year (FYI – the winner was the company Lifeina offering a medication box, which is convenient to carry around and keeps stable temperature for sensitive medication). VW presented a new connectivity module, which is plugged in to the car CAN bus, reading car-related data and executing infotainment, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and other functions. Mercedes as well as Volkswagen has their innovations hubs. Any startup company can apply to the program, filling up the questionnaire and going through the preliminary assessment procedure.
The countries are also very actively promoting themselves in terms of organizing favorable conditions for startup companies. Cyprus, the Netherlands, Poland, Qatar, Portugal were present at the event inviting to make business in these countries.
The Netherlands welcoming startup companies doing business in their country
Avegant CTO Edward Tang talked about new display technologies for mixed reality. It’s called light field technology. The company is using what’s known as a “multi-focal plane approach” to send digital imagery directly to your eyes in a way that’s supposed to replicate the way our eyes naturally perceive things and shift focus (more about the light field and the device you can read here). The main problem that we have right now with viewing objects in mixed reality is that since we have two or more objects in the distance, the focus is only on one of them, while the other one stays blurry. Our brain is not quite good at matching two objects simultaneously and giving us a clear picture. Edward showcased the device with the installed lightfield display – The Glyph. It’s light, elegant, can be the next big thing in Mixed reality. He also compared mixed reality devices evolution with mobile phones. We had around 10 years to go from those big and clumsy cellular phones up to smartphones. However, he believes that for new age mixed reality devices it will take much less time since the technology is progressing much faster.
Avegant CTO presenting Lightfield technology for Mixed reality devices
Bottom line of the whole event - Create and be creative. Think out of the box, break the rules, and don’t follow the known path. This is what being startup is all about. But from my side I would also add – have someone to help you with promotion. The startups are numerous, every product idea is amazing and brings new values and opportunities. But if you can’t pitch and be passionate in promoting it – it won’t work. You have try hard to prove to investors, VCs that your idea is worth billions of dollars.
With all these factors combined, we at Sigma Software see our role in delivering superior quality solutions as well as engaging ourselves into the client’s business processes to be able to act as the single team – caring about the product, defining priority features and aiming at startup profitability in the first row.