53,000 participants, 15,000 companies from 166 countries, 7,000 CEOs, 21 conferences, an expected turnover of about 250 million euros. This is Web Summit 2016, that is taking place in Lisbon these days. The Web Summit is the most important technology event in Europe, where start-ups, investors, and international leaders meet to discuss innovation and build relationships.
The Web Summit was born in Dublin but has moved to southern Europe this year. Compared to 2015, the number of its participants has doubled – which is a signal of southern Europe no longer bringing up the rear, but finally and clearly taking up the role of young innovating heart of the old continent.
As it recovers from the 2000 financial crisis, Portugal is rapidly gaining ground in the European start-up geography, thanks to a very vibrant community of entrepreneurs and to its enlightened National economic policy. In fact, Secretary of State of Industry João Vasconcelos has contributed to the election of Portugal as the European Silicon Valley, allocating investments for 400 million euros (together with business angels and venture capital firms), as well as planning tax cuts for investors, creating a network of over 80 certified incubators and a plan to bring broadband all across the nation, including schools.
For this reasons and thanks to the network generated by the Web Summit, Lisbon is going to be internationally recognized as an innovation centre and a new start-up hub. Indeed, according to The Guardian, Lisbon could be the next technological European capital.
The Web Summit is not just an opportunity to attend the talks of big technology names like Cisco, Facebook, Soundcloud, Blablacar or Niantic (the one that launched Pokémon Go). Between the event itself and its branches (Collision , RISE , MoneyConf), participating start-ups have raised funds for more than a billion dollars last year and this year that figure is expected to grow.
I have attended the event with part of the P101 team, and we have been positively impressed not just by the remarkable amount of start-ups, institutions and investors that this event was able to attract, but mainly because this crowd of more than 50,000 people represents the rise of a new entrepreneurship, ranging well beyond the digital / technology area and setting the stage for a whole new way of doing business.
For Italy, Lisbon and Portugal in general are an example we should follow. Until a few years ago, Portugal was confined outside the European innovation and new economy radar, but it has managed to reinvent itself and become the focus of the future European start-up network. A road that our country can undertake too, and actually one it has already begun to walk. Indeed, for Italy the Web Summit has been the ground where we have tested international interest in our ecosystem, and without too much surprise we found that this interest was growing. Southern European and in particular Italian start-ups represent today an opportunity for new, fresh, high-level investment that national and international corporates cannot afford to miss if they want to stay competitive.