Web Summit Preview: 2015 Recap

Web Summit Preview: 2015 Recap

Web Summit 2016 is less than a week away. Running from the 7th to the 10th of November, up to 50,000 people will descend on the Portuguese capital to see the leading names from the world of technology take to the stage. The event, held in Dublin for the past seven years, is estimated to be worth €200m to Lisbon’s economy.

 We’re kicking off our own coverage of the three-day event with a look back at our favourite speakers from 2015.

  • Stewart Butterfield, Slack.

First up is Stewart Butterfield, CEO and co-founder of Slack. For anyone that’s not familiar, Slack is a collaborative messaging tool that allows workers within a company to chat and work together in groups.

In a very entertaining session, entitled “The Email Killer?”, Butterfield discussed how a failed attempt at launching a video game led to one of the fastest-growing technology companies in the world.

"Email will be the cockroach of the internet," he said, when asked whether Slack will kill email. "I think we've got another 30 or 40 years of email left."


  • The Future of Healthcare.

The Financial Times’ Andrew Jack sat down with three industry experts on day one to discuss how technological developments will affect the way we treat the sick and to what degree they believe healthcare could become automated.

Mary Spio of Next Galaxy Corp talked about her company’s partnerships with several healthcare organizations to create fully-immersive virtual reality training. It provides students with the opportunity to train in a number of procedures in a realistic environment, without the risk, and rather than using the traditional videos and textbooks.

The panel also included Ramji Srinivasan, CEO of health tech start-up Counsyl. His company recognised the demand for consumer-driven, personalized healthcare and applied it to the field of Genomics. They currently have three tests on the market, including the Family Prep. This looks for over 100 genetic conditions that you or your partner could pass on to your child.


  • Randy Braun and Patrick Meier, Drones For Good.

One of the more enlightening talks at last year’s Web Summit was ‘Drones for Good’ with Randy Braun and Patrick Meier, who discussed unmanned aerial vehicles and how they are increasingly helping in crisis situations.

A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015, killing more than 9,000 people, injuring an estimated 23,000 and displacing a further 450,000. Even with a disaster of this scale, a report at the time estimated that only 5,000 relief workers were on hand to respond.

Meier founded the Humanitarian UAV Network. They teamed up with the CDMC, the local Community Disaster Management Committee, who were desperately looking for better data to inform their relief efforts and reform their recovery efforts.

Much of the news coverage about drones has focused on their negatives - how they are being used by the military for targeted strikes or even by normal people to spy on their next door neighbours. But Meier showed how UAVs are making a difference in disaster-prone areas and successfully empowering locals to be the true first responders.


  • Sean Rad, Tinder.

Tinder co-founder and CEO Sean Rad sat down with Forbes Senior Editor Steven Bertoni to talk about the dating app’s incredible reach.

Rad spoke about how the initial idea for the app came from the observation that people feel more comfortable approaching strangers when they have the stranger's approval. He noted the various barriers we face in today’s society, and how these can make meeting someone more difficult.

Tinder makes the initial encounter less awkward, more efficient and more streamlined. It removes the potential hurt we could feel when rejected, and presents the user with a large database of potential matches.


  • Palmer Luckey, Oculus VR.

Virtual reality was the hot topic at last year’s Web Summit. The highlight came on day one as Palmer Luckey fascinated the crowd with his discussion on VR’s long-term potential and made the ambitious claim that virtual reality devices will eventually become as commonplace as the smartphone.

One of the things Luckey was quick to address was the common misconception that virtual reality is gaming technology. He believes it can be equally beneficial in areas like teaching and simulation.

Kids don’t learn the best by reading books...There’s clearly value in real-world experiences: going to do things. That’s why we have field trips. The problem is that the majority of people will never be able to do the majority of those experiences.

He said that in the not too distant future virtual reality could be used to make these experiences available to everyone. Children from across the world can visit places like Paris and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.

On March 25, 2016, the first batch of Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets began shipping to consumers.

Final Word

This year’s event once again features a star-studded list of speakers ranging from Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer to actor and founder of HitRECord Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Check back later to this week for our full preview of Web Summit 2016.

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(image credit: sportsfile)

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