Web Summit shows bigger isn’t always better

By Oliver Smith 9 November 2016

Standing in the cold when you’ve paid €1,000 to attend a conference is blood boiling.

The world of technology is growing bigger than ever before, but bigger doesn’t always mean better.

Last year one of Europe’s biggest tech conferences, Web Summit, decided to leave its hometown of Dublin and relocate to Lisbon for this year’s conference.

Read more: Europe’s biggest tech conference ditches Dublin for Lisbon

The announcement went down like a ton of bricks among Ireland’s growing tech community, especially as in five years Web Summit had grown from 400 to 25,000 visitors each year.

Conference founder Paddy Cosgrave blamed poor wifi, but it was later revealed that Lisbon had promised to pay an annual €1.3m bursary to the organisers.

Opening night of Lisbon's Web Summit 2016.

Bigger isn’t always better

Web Summit kicked off in Lisbon on Monday, but Cosgrave and co quickly discovered that bigger isn’t always better.

Firstly thousands of attendees were left outside in the cold after it became apparent that Lisbon’s MEO arena, where the conference’s opening ceremony was held, could only hold 15,000 people.

Unfortunately Web Summit has sold 53,056 tickets this year, meaning most of the attendees who had paid between €1,000 and €5,245 were forced to watch the opening ceremony on a screen outside, or just watch the live stream from their hotel rooms.


Wifi woes

During that same opening ceremony Cosgrave tried to take a swipe at the poor wifi of Dublin’s venues.

He held up his phone and asked everyone to connect to the wifi and load up the Facebook Live stream of the event…

Which obviously didn’t work and his own phone failed to load anything – organisers later blamed a ‘technical glitch’ with Cosgrave’s smartphone.


That’s not to take away from the excellent work going on at Lisbon’s Web Summit 2016, with fantastic speakers like Tinder’s Sean Rad, Gary Vaynerchuk and Eileen Burbidge.

Web Summit is still one of Europe’s biggest and most impressive technology conferences, but we hope Cosgrave and other conference organisers realise, bigger isn’t always better.