Web Summit attendees last year were blindsided by Donald Trump's victory in the vote for U. "My purpose here is to recruit you to be part of the solution to the climate crisis," he told the audience.
"Although government regulation is certainly a hot topic for us all, I feel like the political opinion of speakers was given too much airtime and most of the time it was not entirely relevant." Al Gore, for example, opened his presentation to attendees with videos of Trump making claims that global warming is merely a myth.
At last week's 2017 Web Summit, many people shared stories along the lines of, "I remember exactly where I was when I found out." Others made political appeals in light of subsequent events. "I was in shock around the amount of conversation on Trump this year," says Camilla White, board account director at Leo Burnett.
"You can have a bigger impact than practically any other group in the world." Margrethe Vestager, the European commissioner for competition, who issued a record-breaking $2.7 billion fine against Google in June, told attendees that the duopoly of Google and Facebook can "end up closing the door to innovation." "That's why dominant companies like Google have a special responsibility not to undermine competition," she said.
Caitlyn Jenner was also in attendance to discussing "Defining Gender," but her 20-minute talk focused more on how someone can achieve success. "Gamble, cheat, lie and steal." "Web Summit calls itself 'the largest tech conference in the world,' but I actually think it's broader than tech," says Michael Chui, partner at the Mc Kinsey Global Institute.
"It provides a forum for a global, diverse set of people from all types and sizes of companies, but all passionate about innovation.
And it's not just innovation around technology—you see topics in areas from the music listening experience to women in tech to ethics in news." The Web Summit attracted some 400 people when it debuted in Ireland back in 2010, but its most recent event drew a new high of 60,000.
Crowd members range from the big tech companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon to unknown startups and media publications.
But they also include investors, whose badges specifically call them out as such.
"The level of diversity–not just the people and the companies–but with the types of conversations on stage and off," Chui says.
"There was an undercurrent of talking about social issues more generally–whether politics, gender, unemployment from tech and the market power of tech giants." "I wonder what we would have thought if we saw this agenda 10 years ago–I don't think the connection between these massive issues and opportunities with technology would have been clear, or perhaps even exist," he adds.
"But today, the digital lens is relevant for all leaders to look at issues around the world." Unlike the Consumer Electronics show, which last year was dubbed an auto-trade show due to the vast number of car manufacturers that attended, the Web Summit itself only had a handful of players.