Web Summit draws more than 42,000 international attendees; women outnumber men for the first time in event’s history

Web Summit, one of the world’s best-known tech conferences, has kicked off its first in-person conference in two years, welcoming 42,751 attendees from 128 countries. For the first time in the event’s 10-year history, there are more women than men in attendance, at 50.5 per cent.

So far, highlights have included opening keynotes from Frances Haugen and Black Lives Matter co-founder Ayọ Tometi, as well as plenty of discussion about why the future is bright for high-quality journalism, revenue diversification, and what will replace third-party cookies. You can follow all FIPP’s updates from the ground in Lisbon via Twitter.

In what is the biggest gathering in tech since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Web Summit sold out on Sunday after reaching capacity – reduced this year due to Covid restrictions, from 70,469 in 2019. 

The percentage of female attendees has been rising since 2016 after the launch of Web Summit’s Women in Tech initiative. The company has seen representation grow to this from 45.8 per cent in 2020 and 46.3 per cent in 2019. 

Frances Haugen on Centre Stage during the opening night of Web Summit 2021 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Web Summit via Sportsfile

Frances Haugen calls for Mark Zuckerberg’s resignation

Over the four-day event, 748 speakers are delivering 1,333 talks, including fireside chats, Q&As, keynotes, roundtables and masterclasses. Among these speakers is arguably 2021’s biggest name in tech, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who called for Mark Zuckerberg’s resignation at her keynote session at Web Summit’s Opening Night on Monday (1 November) evening. Facebook (now Meta) chief product officer Chris Cox will speak at the event via the metaverse on Wednesday, and Meta VP of Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg spoke remotely today (2 November).

1,519 startups and 872 investors

Some 1,519 startups will participate in the event, making Web Summit the largest gathering of entrepreneurs in the world this year. Thousands of founders will meet with 872 investors for deal-making, alongside pitching competitions, roundtables and masterclasses. As of Monday night, the most requested startups by investors were: Finoa, GuestReady, Contents.com, Payaut, and EcoTree.

2 November 2021; Attendees during day one of Web Summit 2021 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Web Summit via Sportsfile

70 unicorns

70 unicorns will appear on stage throughout the event – the largest number at Web Summit to date – more than two dozen of which have become unicorns since the beginning of the pandemic, including Sorare, Personio, Kry, and Workato.  

500,000 connection requests 

Networking at the event is powered by Web Summit’s proprietary software, Summit Engine, which was licensed to customers for the first time this year. The United Nations ran a UNDP programme event in March using Summit Engine and, last week, it was announced that the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas will use Web Summit’s technology for its event in January 2022. Some 500,000 connection requests had been sent by opening night, using the Web Summit app.

A packed audience on opening night as Carlos Moedas, Mayor of the City of Lisbon, speaks on the Centre Stage during the opening night of Web Summit 2021 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Sam Barnes/Web Summit via Sportsfile


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