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Last week the AdRoll EMEA Marketing team descended into Lisbon to soak up all that Web Summit 2016 had to offer. Here are our key takeaways from the talks we attended and the conversations we took part in. 

1. Lisbon is amazing

Having decided to relocate the Web Summit to Lisbon after residing 5 years in Dublin, there were many who uttered concerns about the Web Summit team’s ability to transition successfully. Those naysayers were proven well and truly wrong last week as Lisbon shone in all its glory. It had all the elements to make the international event a success. From cheap and reliable transport, to a stunning and functional venue, as well as remarkably good value and delicious food across the city, Lisbon was undeniably a good choice.

The city also took advantage of the international platform it was given by running extensive promotions positioning Lisbon as the start up capital of Europe. Repeatedly, across the city we witnessed the advert “This is not the new Silicon Valley. This is Portugal”, but the message is clear, and their ambition is staked in the ground.

2. The A / B Test

Seeing the type of enterprises currently in the Alpha and Beta stage of development is always a good barometer of what will be the online brands of tomorrow. This year there were some very strong themes coming through. Sport Tech was one in particular that seemed to be very much en vogue. From businesses pivoting around fan engagement to training analytics, its certainly one of the most active and interesting tech spaces at the moment. Beyond that, security, content and connectivity were the other big A / B themes.

3. Everyone is talking about AI

At any given time throughout the conference it felt like there was some talk on the topic of AI, and how it will change our worlds and our everyday interactions entirely. One of the clearest demonstrations of this was the discussion between Sofia the robot humanoid and her creator David Hanson. As she began to explain her future capabilities, including teaching children and helping the elderly, it was hard to think entirely positively about this proposed future. On the eve of the presidential results, many at the Web Summit were questioning the positive and negative impact of disruptive technologies on our economies and societies. The results that self driving cars could have on an entire industry, the workers and their lives is a prime example. The choice of leaving millions of taxi, bus and service drivers without a livelihood is indeed a big one.  Do innovators and governments need to weigh up the balances around innovations that will change our world entirely? Or does the march of innovation drum on undisturbed. These were all questions which were brought up around the topic.

4. Romance is not dead

There were some heavy hitters in the online dating app world present at the Web Summit. Sean Rad, CEO and Co-founder of Tinder closed the main stage on Wednesday. Apart from positioning Tinder as a platform where over 80% of users were looking for real/long term relationships, clearly attempting to distance it as an app for hookups, he also highlighted the huge potential for crowdsourced, real time, scaleable research.

Rad spoke about the Swipe the Vote campaign which was launched in the weeks leading up to the American presidential election, and how it served as one of the largest global polls of millennials in history. Aside from generating interesting results, it clearly demonstrated the power Tinder now has with a hugely active user base who engage with these campaigns, signalling a potential monetization strategy for the platform outside of subscriptions.

5. Moon Travel

Ever fancied blowing off the family holiday in favour of a quick visit to the Moon? Well Naveen Jain, co-founder of Moon Express believes this will be our reality in a matter of years.

Echoing the words of JFK, Jain noted we chose to go to the moon, not because it’s easy, but because it’s good business. He spoke of the unbelievable natural resources that are there, not to mention the opportunity to build businesses around space travel. Jain compared Moon Express to the iPhone, and the app ecosystem to the explosion of potential Lunar business opportunities. Only time will tell what the Moon’s Angry Bird or Pokemon Go equivalent will be, but for now, the possibility of affordable Moon travel in our generation is enough food for thought.

6. Entrepreneurs as the 4th Super Power

The Web Summit holds more entrepreneurs in a small contained space at the same time, per capita, than any other place in the world. The notion of entrepreneurship and the way it is spoken about at the Summit is certainly romanticised. Steve Jobs is spoken about like an Eisenhower, and Evan Spiegel is compared to a modern day prophet. Indeed Naveen Jain, co-founder of Moon Express, so convinced of the importance and power of entrepreneurs, noted that they are or will become the 4th superpower. While this may be a gross exaggeration, the sentiment has logic. The new digital age has thrown many traditional models of power wide open. With the advent of social media and rapid dissemination of content amongst consumers, people have huge opportunity to use these platforms to elevate themselves. Gary Vaynerchuk, the well known social media guru had some words of wisdom on this.

We are now in the greatest era. For the first time ever, with no money, with no connections THIS (Mobile phone) can put you on the map. If you’re good enough, to be up here, nobody is stopping you. Not Donald Trump, Not the Russians. If you are a minority, if you are a female, if you are transgendered, if you are an alien, the market doesn’t give a F. If you make the best shit, you will win.

Certainly on the eve of such an historic political event, it was inspiring to hear those type of sentiments. The Web Summit is unique in its ability to inspire, shock and provoke. It’s a haven for all manner of innovators, and its new found location has added a new dimension.