David Fehrenbach

David is Managing Director of preML and writes about technology and business-related topics in computer vision and machine learning.

“The best technology conference on the planet” advertises the world-famous Web Summit conference held every year in Lisbon, Portugal. No wonder the whole team was in when we were invited by Baden-Württemberg International to apply for one of the rare spots for a subsidized booth. In the following some impressions. Enjoy reading!

Preface – Arrival

So yeah, we got the place (a big thank you to BW-I, especially Anja Kümmel who organized everything), booked our flights and got ready for Portugal. Our plan was to combine the event with some team events. Since we didn’t have any retreats or team events this year due to the low budget and Covid, this fit into our plan quite well. On the first day, only dinner with the delegation was on the agenda, so we planned the day with team events and workshops, which ended up being quite fruitful. The dinner was great, we met very cool founders of BW-based startups like Pragmatic Industries (bring machines into the Industry 4.0), TRONITY (manage electric car data) or Reportix (XBRL DataLake) and many more. For those of us who founded in the pandemic, it was very nice to connect in person with other founders and share our needs, pains and ideas in a relaxed atmosphere with good wine.

Being a visitor at Web Summit

The next day was our first day at the conference. The amount of people at the Web Summit is crazy. In the end, there were 42,751 attendees, and that was in the middle of a pandemic. Anyway, we were well-prepared and had filled our bags with disinfection material and FFP2-masks from DM. Still, we had to wait about an hour to get our tickets and enter.

The conference is extremely diverse in terms of speakers, participating startups and investors. As a consequence, you can choose between talks like the one by actress Daniela Melchior (Suicide Squad) or the one by the CEO of Shell. The same diversity can be found among the startups and exhibitors. On the same floor, there are young, dreaming startups (I personally liked the ones that wanted to reinvent the Zeppelin), alongside really successful startups like Personio from Munich, which has raised $524 million in funding so far. And in the middle of it all, AWS, who collected our contact details in the streets of Lisbon the day before the conference started.

On the one hand, the diversity is great, on the other hand, the choice of options is overwhelming. This ended with Lucas sitting down at a socket after 30 minutes and starting to program.

Beeing a Exhibitor – preML booth at Web Summit 2021

The idea of the conference is that the exhibitors change every day, so visitors can visit new startups every day. It was our turn on the last of the three days, and the subway was on strike that day too, not the best conditions, but we were curious to see how the international audience would react to us. Each booth had the same style and at the top you could read a sentence about what the start-up does. So visitors would hop around the halls, read that one sentence about each startup, and then decide if it was worth talking to. We did the same thing the days before as visitors, but as exhibitors it felt like there was a line of zombies walking past the booth looking up at the sky. Anyway, we were very happy with the feedback we got from visitors and investors, and even made some leads (which we didn’t expect). We ended the day with a few beers with our delegation and had a terrible bus ride (the subway was still on strike) back to the hotel.


Well, the Web Summit is a big hype, we don’t need to talk about that. We enjoyed our stay, but I think we enjoyed the time together and the life in Lisbon more than the fair, to be honest. The huge variance also makes a lot of things boring. We are not interested in HR startups, they are not interested in manufacturing startups. So let’s face the crucial question of when it’s worth going to the trade fair:

  • If your customers are startups (you won’t find any other kind of customers there)
  • If you want to meet international investors (which is difficult as a start-up from Europe)
  • If you already have investors and can wrap up a lot of face-to-face meetings in a week
  • If you want to benchmark your idea and your startup
  • If you would like to work for a start-up
  • If you’re startup crazy (or have to be, like a journalist or an investor)
  • If you want to have fun in Lisbon
I hope I could give you an insight into the “The best technology conference on the planet” and hope you enjoyed reading.


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David Fehrenbach

David is Managing Director of preML and writes about technology and business-related topics in computer vision and machine learning.