The words of a CTO @ Web Summit 2014

Last week Passworks’ CEO Francisco Belo (@FBBelo) and myself (Passworks’ CTO@lmmendes) went to Dublin to attend the Web Summit 2014 for the first time.

Without knowing what to expect for sure besides the fact that we would find there lots of investors and startups presenting their products (1,000 experienced investors and at least 2,000 startups), we grabbed a two for one ticket, arranged a booth for the first day and went on exploring the summit.

The sheer dimension of the venue at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) was astonishing. It was divided in 4 primary summits: Machine, Enterprise, Marketing and Builders and we were exhibiting at the Enterprise summit.

When we arrived at the first day and saw the size of our booth we were a little bit disappointed to see all startups were crammed one on top each other. The internet connection was also incredibly flaky, which posed quite an obstacle every time we tried to demonstrate our product. Our luck was that our CEO — as always — had a backup plan: he pulled a 3G modem to show the Passworks platform so we wouldn’t need to resort showing our development platform on a local machine.

The balance of our first day was that the event was too generic and many of the people that approached us were more interested in knowing how ibeacons worked (how can they be configured and how they integrate with Passbook). In spite of these people were not our main audience/target, in terms of contacts it was a very interesting and important day for a startup like ours, to do some networking and to meet new people as potential clients or partners.

Please, bear in mind that setting up a stand in a fair like the one on WebSummit or a similar event requires a specific mindset: you must be willing to actively engage with the people passing by your stand and to remember to be polite and treat everyone at the event as equal, even if you think that their business doesn’t fit with yours or if it’s only a person curious about your technology, because in the startup world the word-of-mouth is a very important thing and you want the people to remember you and your company.

All-in-all, the first day was pretty intense as we spent the whole day standing at our booth from 8h45 AM to around 6 PM answering questions and making our product known. We didn’t get the opportunity to see what was out there at the rest of the Summit because we were committed to trying to get the maximum return on our stand.

On the second and third days of the event our approach changed: we went to discover the Web Summit and all the startups presenting on both days, picking the most promising business-wise one by one, trying figure it out if they‘d be a good fit as partners or clients.

This proved to be a valuable experience, since we listened to the pitch of almost all the startups we talked to which ultimately gave us some ideas and allowed us to fine tune our own pitch while giving us lots of leads.

Summing it all up I had a blast at the Summit. It gave me an unique opportunity to talk to other CTOs and developers about their growing pains, experiences and technology. I recommend going to one of these events for the experience; it’s very rewarding.

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