IT’S AN IMPORTANT week for Web Summit, Paddy Cosgrave’s now-travelling tech conference.
All eyes will turn to Lisbon, to see if a conference that has scaled from 400 people to 50,000 in six years will sink or swim in the Portuguese capital after a very public falling out with Irish officials.
This evening marked the official opening of the 2016 event, with the Portuguese prime minister António Costa and Lisbon mayor Fernando Medina announcing Portugal “the tech capital of the world for the next three days”.
“It was quite emotional,” said Mike Harvey, head of communications at Web Summit.
Emotions also ran high outside the venue, where a large number of the 50,000 people who paid to attend the event queued from late afternoon to get access to the 15,000-capacity MEO arena.
No matter what way you crunch the numbers, 50,000 will never go into 15,000 – which left a lot of the attendees who had paid between €700 and €5,000 for a ticket disappointed when they couldn’t get access to the venue.
“We understand some people weren’t able to get in,” said Harvey.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm in the crowd when you think about people wanting to come along. So we are going to look at what happened there and see what can be done.”
As security held back crowds of people looking to get entry to the venue and with little information at the gates on whether more attendees were to be admitted, some ticketholders were already asking for refunds.
Others at the end of the queue simply left when it became clear they wouldn’t be getting inside this evening.
For some attendees who weren’t able to gain access to the MEO Arena for the opening event, facilities were provided to watch the opening set of talks live on screens outside the venue.
Aside from some of the frustrations from general attendees outside, the opening evening went off with only a few minor hiccups, with speakers from the World Trade Organisation and United Nations delivering their global outlook on the political and economic issues worldwide that could hold back the tech sector.
However, the Wi-Fi issues that Web Summit has been plagued with in Ireland came back to haunt Cosgrave.
The event organiser was left stumped on stage when he tried to demonstrate that the Wi-Fi was working seamlessly – and then failed in his attempts to load a Facebook Live stream of the event on his phone as it was being streamed on the big screens on stage.
Killian Woods is reporting from Web Summit 2016 in Lisbon.