Web Summit highlights of 2018 — day 1

Nov 7 2018
8 min

The first day of Web Summit has come to an end, and we couldn't resist the temptation to share some of our Web Summit highlights from Lisbon. Grab a glass of wine and enjoy, this is our way of making sure you don't miss the hot topics!


Inside the fastest-growing app business of history - Cal Handerson, CTO at Slack

In shorts and a holiday shirt, Cal Henderson, co-founder, and CTO at Slack opened the event with a talk about Slack, as being one of the top rising app businesses. We picked up one of Mamoon's remarks as one of the top Web Summit highlights:

"Thank you for dressing up for the occasion — you look like life is a vacation every day."

From a gaming company to Slack?

When you see a headline like this, most times transition is what comes to your mind. Well, it is not the case here. Although it might seem that Slack has been the centerpiece of Cal's business in the early days, they actually built Slack so as to be able to communicate within their gaming company.

Once realizing they were not heading anywhere with the games they were building, they ditched that and started making an entry to the market with Slack, as a team communication tool.


Slack — product-market fit

Talking about mistakes will always be part of Web Summit highlights and of any other valuable conference too. This time, Cal talked about the initial product fit as being an observation and iteration process. They were going into different offices, observing the problems workers had and iterating on them.

They spent a huge amount of time talking to their potential customers. Once they put the product in the hands of the users whose problems they were solving, they realized things that could improve what they had already built.


Everybody makes mistakes

Asked about some of the biggest mistakes they have done in the past 5 years, Cal mentioned that it is hard to pin down a single big mistake.

We constantly make mistakes and he thinks a big part of being successful is responding to those mistakes in a correct way. When you find yourself being too busy, you might be stuck in the daily ‘what to do’ rather than focusing on a long-term strategy. 


Firms or Government: Who should tackle the workplace gender gap?

Who should lead the way on gender equality in the workplace? How can both governments and companies ensure a fairer work environment?

As an open discussion Gillian Tans, CEO at, Vera Jourova, the EU Commissioner for Justice, and Thorold Barker, Editor EMEA at The Wall Street Journal, tackled the gender gap topic. She pointed out some of the most important factors when it comes to gender equality and equal pay. Of course, we couldn't hide these Web Summit highlights from you.

The discussion started off with Thorold pointing out the number of leading females in leadership roles declining in the last 4 years. On a more positive note, it might be worth mentioning that at Web Summit, the percentage of women attendees is no of now of 44% compared to 24% five years ago.

Still, today, there are people doing the exact same job, and one of them is paid more than the other. So what are those things determining unequal pay?


Here’s what Vera Jourova pointed out as being key factors:

  1. Segregated Jobs — women that work jobs that are normally less paid

  2. Care for families — women are seen as the centerpiece of the family

Moving on to the private sector, Gillian, CEO of mentioned how companies should be the ones taking ownership for unequal pay.


Web Summit highlights by Wolfpack Digital on gender equality, gender gap and equal pay at a workplace


Companies need to take ownership

They can do a lot by themselves to increase the numbers of female managers. The same applies to investors and owners of companies.

"Investors should start understanding that it is good for their business to have more women in decision making positions. After the financial crisis, it was quite obvious that companies having females in leading positions felt the crisis earlier and were able to adapt faster."

— Gillian, CEO of


Our side notes? We keep speaking about this as it is an issue concerning women only when it is actually a global problem that needs to be solved. Now the problem got in the Web Summit highlights. But it's time to raise this concern on the local level too.


Is Europe's tech scene finally heating up?

In the past Europe has played in the shadow of Silicon Valley and China. However, over the last few years, European technology has exploded, with more unicorns than ever on the continent. How can Europe sustain this growth? You are about to find the answer among the Web Summit highlight we've grasped.

The question comes, is Europe the right ecosystem for early-stage startups?

There has never been a more exciting time to start as a startup, in Europe. It is clear that Capital Markets are thriving. With all the industries rising- fintech, healthcare, and AI — right now Europe is the best place globally to start a company. So if you are a startup, you can definitely stay in Europe said Reshma Sohni, the Managing Partner at Seedcamp.

Moving on to the financial side of every startup, we know now that London is one of the traditional hubs when it comes to the European startup ecosystem, but do startups really need to go to the main hubs when they are looking for money from VCs?


How should startups from other countries think about the European ecosystem?

One of the key jobs of a CEO should be raising money, so you have to be willing to go where the money is. That being said, you need to be flexible.

Still, most VCs are willing to invest in startups located in countries that are nowhere on the tech scene.


What do new startups bring to the market?

Enterprises are completely reinventing themselves. They digitize themselves, this means there are great opportunities for new software to be created in Europe, which was previously not the case.

Also, there is a lot of pressure on costs — a lot of developers are looking for more and more ways to reduce costs, and here we can see al the new technologies that come in hand with this matter.

"If in the past we put money into developing software for banks, now we are investing in companies that are replacing banks."


Is being close to your target customers really that important when you are a startup?

In enterprise software, you need to be located where your key customers are. In online games, for instance, people are everywhere. 

You want to be close to where you can scale on distribution. In the early stage of your startup, you are trying to find out how to get traction and energy. But you don't have to move to the USA to succeed as a startup. We had to mention this in our Web Summit highlights.

Many companies can thrive where they are. For instance, a lot of investment has been made in Barcelona (an ecosystem that was nowhere 10 years ago) this just shows that the world is powered by cloud and access to infrastructure.


How do you get your hands on the money if you are not based in one of the European hubs?

Don't wait until you are big. Find the guy who knows a guy. It might be a friend that knows a VC. Just get a slightly warm intro and you will get noticed.

Adding to this, Reshma mentioned finding their companies through a type form they placed on their site.


What I wish a VC had told me — Venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian


founder of Reddit, Venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian, speaking on the Web Summit stage


Among our Web Summit highlights you will find lessons from the Venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian he wishes investors had shared as he was building Reddit, one of the most viewed websites on the planet.


"I heard I am the last speaker before lunch — no pressure."


Top Web Summit highlights from Alexis Ohanian


Look for peers, not mentors. 

You might find yourself looking at the people that are on stage these days and think how much you'd like for them to be your mentors. The point is, you know more about your struggles than they do. Instead of looking for a mentor, go out and look for peers that are one level above. Most probably, they went through the stuff you are going right now not so long ago, and definitely not 10 years ago.

You are the average of your 5 friends. 

This is a no-brainer. You are the sum of the people you spend most of your time with.

Seek authenticity not authority. 

People seek transparency and authenticity and as an early-stage startup that's what you have. You have to be real — this currency weights much more.

Become ruthless at prioritizing your schedule. 

Spend every Monday and Sunday going through the things you want to accomplish. There are always going be distractions and obstacles standing in your way — lear to triage.

Focus on the very specific things that make your product special.

Obsess over them and cast all other distractions on the side. So many entrepreneurs get distracted after they find their product fit.

Health not hustle. 

Is hustle porn a thing in the European startup ecosystem? It is the idea that unless you are working on stuff all the time, bragging, struggling and showing that you're suffering on Instagram, you are not working.

Don't let hustle porn infect your brain. So many times I wished I had someone to talk to. Bring people in your life that you can talk to about your health and your personal struggles besides work.

Garbage in garbage out. 

Start investing in yourself mentally and physically now.

Values not friendships. 

A lot of startups team come together because they were friends before. Understand that you not only have a friendship in common but you share values. It is not only about the list of 10 values you hang on the walls of your company and you try to get into everyone's head. It is also about personal values. Share an alignment in how you see the world.

Cyborgs not robots. 

We build software to scale the unscalable. There are a lot of people out there offering black box solutions. I really believe that the future of humanity are cyborgs. Automation is doing all our jobs cheaper and faster.

Be relentless. 

There are going to be haters and detractors. a lot of noise in your life but you need to stand firm on your position. Get better as using no as a motivation in your life. You will hear a lot of nos in your entire life as an entrepreneur and, that is perfectly okay.


That's it about Web Summit Highlights - Day #1! If you are around Web Summit these days make sure to meet Gina, our CEO, and Adrian, the CTO of Wolfpack Digital. They are the coolest, and, oh, did we forget to mention they are fluent in startups and tech?

Also, stay tuned for Web Summit Highlights day #2!


Web Summit highlights from CEO and CTO of Wolfpack Digital, top company in building fintech, AI, and healthcare apps

Here's a selfie with Gina and Adrian.

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