Dublin has just bid farewell to the Web Summit, which will trade black blood pudding and Irish charm for the wood-grilled delights of Lisbon in 2016. But, should New York startups make the trip to Web Summit next year? The Web Summit endured significant controversy and, having now experienced it as an entrepreneur, investor attendee, pitching stage judge, angel awards judge, and speaker, I decided to rank the Web Summit vis a vis other conferences and take a stab at evaluating whether it is worth New York startups’ money and time to take the trip to Lisbon in 2016.
The greatest controversy facing the Web Summit of late, aside from its perennially tragic Wifi, has been whether or not it is a great opportunity or a great scam for entrepreneurs. The truth is, it’s probably a bit of both depending on your stage and different types of startups will reap different benefits from attending it.
So, for New York startups, is it worth it? For mid-and-later stage New York startups, whose founders and advisors can also serve as speakers, roundtable leaders, and judges in many cases in addition to exhibiting, I still think the Web Summit is worth attending, often just for the pure networking. It’s particularly worth attending if, as a funded-entrepreneur, you can also snag any speaking gigs, discussions, and the like, since the speaker and investor dinners, pub crawls, and some other exclusive events do present genuinely great opportunities to meet exceptional investors. I particularly want to tip my hat off to the organizers of the Dublin Angel Summit, which I found to be the most enjoyable, and productive, day of my conference. Moreover, the Web Summit is really great at drawing a strong corporate and government business crowd from Europe so, for mid-to-larger startups capable of signing real contracts with larger corporate or national entities to scale, those networking opportunities make attendance absolutely worth the trip.
By contrast, I was not impressed with the Summit’s ability to assist, and lack of focus on assisting, the alpha stage startups in attendance. Several founders complained they could not get into the investors lounge without being a guest, much less attend the more exclusive gatherings many of the investors frequented, which dramatically limits an early-stage startups’ ability to derive value from an event like the Web Summit. For these super early-stage companies, I don’t think it’s worth the trip, particularly for New York startups who have to pay transatlantic freight on top of everything else.
So, if you are an alpha-or-beta stage New York startup, where should you spend your cash and time instead? Here are two affordable and effective options:
- New York Tech Day: This is the no-brainer. It’s short, gets great people, and is right on your doorstep. Don’t miss it.
- International CES: The startup village at CES is affordable, and gets a good crowd, particularly of corporate folks looking for new products on the retail side, or software corporates looking for early-stage technology for strategic use. Vegas isn’t exactly close to as expensive an outlay as Europe, in any case.
So, there you have it. The Web Summit is a large, growing event with significant value for folks higher up the food chain in the startup ecosystem. That’s no surprise: it’s who the Summit really caters to. But for super early-stage New York startups, I would look elsewhere.