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Key Takeaways from WebSummit 2023

In this article, we discuss the key themes and discussion points that came up during WebSummit 2023, and get the thoughts of our team about what it means for the Tech sector going into 2024.

 

Is AI here to stay?

AI is everything everywhere all at once. It feels like we are in peak AI hype right now with almost every startup seemingly throwing it into their company byline. That feels dangerous, invariably it means there is less to separate one business from the next, and surely they are ripe to be picked off by ‘Big Tech’ with access to much bigger data sets? Is the strategy to hope for a quick purchase and exit? It seems a highly risky and short-term strategy. Equally as much as AI is suddenly ubiquitous, the interesting trend is the growing number of businesses asking for AI powered features to be disabled until organizations have a better grasp of what the tech really means for their business.

 

Diversity is key

Web Summit itself felt under threat as it endured a crisis of leadership prior to the conference. Paddy Cosgrove, the event’s founder, stepped back and former Wikipedia boss Katherine Maher was appointed CEO. For a conference that has long prided itself on being diverse (43% of the attendees were female, 38% of its speakers) a female CEO feels significant. It’ll be interesting to see how she leads the series, especially as it expands into new territories. Maher has cited Web Summit’s role as being a place for connection and conversation. Her first task will be bringing some of those who stepped away from the brand to come back to the table, and shape the future of the conversations that form the narrative at Web Summit. That may dictate just how valuable startups and growing businesses regard the connections made at the event.

 

Leading with compassion

One of the more unsurprising takeaways was the need for so many speakers to talk about the value of authenticity. Aside from AI, it was probably the word of 2023’s event. If you’re having to tell everyone how authentic you are, and how important it is to exhibit authenticity - do you really have that quality? Rather than a load of hot air about values which should be self-evident, it is time for the industry to use its voice and be outward looking. We need to talk about the need to lead with compassion, to focus on the clear and obvious challenges facing society, and fight for inclusion and equity. Talk about authenticity feels small in ambition as there is so much more that we can all tie in to that going forward.

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