The Next Web conference 2019 is all over and done, two very fun packed and interesting couple of days and now a week later it is a good time to reflect the time there. I’ve been a couple of times before, missed last year but that was fine as it made this year even more interesting. This was definitely the best one I have been to and a very inspiring couple of days.
17,000+ people descending on Amsterdam for the two days, what I hadn’t realised was arriving on the Wednesday night it was also the semi final of the European Cup between Ajax and Spurs so even busier.
As with previous years the main host on the main stage was Pep Rosenfeld, a very entertaining and straight to the point guy along with the founders Boris and Patrick. In the intro he welcomed everyone to ‘nerd Disneyland’. So what is the TNW conference? It’s a two day conference all about tech, which is in its 14th year and has continued to grow, this year at a new location in Amsterdam across the river.
Lots going on at the site and if you want parties there are plenty in Amsterdam post the shows. There were eight stages of different sizes and presentations, workshops and various talks. You get big names from the industry, such as ABN Amro, Red Bull, down to the much smaller places. Discussions cover a massive amount of
Now for those of you that don’t know. TNW Conference is a two day conference all about tech. There are eight stages where presentations, talks and panel discussion are being held by big names in the tech industry. And it’s not only about the bits and bytes, but also about how it helps you in business. With tracks about Retail, Marketing, HR, Growing your business, Machine Learning, AI and more there is something for everyone and so much to see. There is a wide range of people attending the show with plenty of companies showcasing their wares.
One of the big sponsors at the event, apart from ABN Amro, was Porsche who not only had a Mission e on display but also had a ferriswheel shipped in for the two days!
A fantastic opening set on the main stage with a couple of dancers with LED display moving around to the music and the background following their movements, you wouldn’t think it was a tech show to start with. Introductions aside it was time to get on with the conference talks. Most talks tend to be 15-20 minutes but there were some workshops longer. The challenge you have is deciding which of the many ones to attend.
The first session choice was incredibly each, stay at the main stage and listen to Guy Kawasaki. I’ve been interested in Guy for many years just find him such an interesting, happy, positive and inspirational person. He was in fine form and was talking about his recent book ‘Wise Guy’ about his experiences in small and large companies building them up. Very good and simple advice from someone who has been there and done that and it is easy to tie his comments back to your own experiences.
Then it was time for a coffee sitting on the dock site looking across to the main part of Amsterdam. Decided to head back to the main stage after that and listened to Raj Samani, Chief Scientist from McAfee talk about ‘Cybercrime: The biggest threat in the digital age’. Fortunately it wasn’t a push for McAfee just an interesting overview of what is happening today in the area and the challenges that exist out there, if anyone was there who was not in touch with Cybercrime this talk would have woken them up.
At the ABN Amro tent there was a talk about ‘Future of Payments’ given by Yvonne Duits, and it was worth attending. The theme was the convenience of payments in the future and some of the work they had done to trial new approaches to wearable technology. They had run trials of wearable technology that was actually more appealing to the general public than some of the gizmos around today, watches, bracelets that people would have been happy to wear and easy to pay for goods.
After another couple of talks we then headed to back to the main stage for the final part of the day, Chivas Venture Global Final. This is a fund that is awarded to new companies that have convinced the judges they have an idea that can be scaled. The judging has been going on for a few weeks and the event int he evening was the final 5. They all had three minutes to convince they judges about their idea. All five were very interesting and this is where you really get to see some innovation coming in and most of the time simple innovation. The winner was Javier Larragoiti, Co-Founder and CEO of Xilinat. It was a well deserved winner and he took home $310k! However the one that really interested me was Tykn and their CEO Tey, who also walked away with $50k.
Again so many sessions to choose from on Day 2 and had to be quite tough on the choices made. Started the day back at the ABN Amro tent listening to Fabien Casteran, Head of Information Security at ABN Amro, giving a talk about ‘Give your workforce security superpower!’. It was the sort of talk that you would expect any new and existing employee at a company to receive but probably don’t. It was interesting listening to his view on things and also highlighting the 2.9m vacanies in Cyber Security that exist in Europe, so if you looking for something to focus on this could be a good choice. The biggest shame is that he only had 15 mins and only scratched the surface, would have been even more interesting if he had another 30 mins.
One of the early talks we stopped by, albeit late arriving, was ‘The secret that’s getting us back into high street shops’ by Nick Brackenbury, co-founder of NearSt. A simple yet effective idea about shops hooking up to his system and showing live stock levels. So if you are in an area looking to purchase something then lookup online and for those shops involved updating stock levels you can find out immediately where the item is. Now sure this needs shops to take part but this is definitely something to watch in future.
I had originally come to this stage to see a talk from Jack Constantine, Chief Digital Officer of Lush talk about ‘The future of retail: What Amazon can’t do’. Like most people when you hear Lush you just think bath salts you don’t immediately think that they would be a leader and innovator in technology. It is amazing just how much they have done with technology from building their own POS system to an app that means they no longer need to have packaging and signs on goods. In order to cut down on waste they have been running trials where you can walk into a store, point your phone at a product and you then get details about the product including price. Very interesting idea and they had a demo of it there onsite. They also took the very bold step last year to exit social media. Despite having many followers they found the reach of their posts was quite low, but time consuming to manage, yet the reach of the Lush community was far better, let the users promote you. Definitely one of the most interesting talks of the conference.
One of the final talks of the day on the main stage was just stunning from James Beacham, particle physicist at CERN currently working on the ATLAS Experiment. Firstly he has a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm for what he does. The title of his talk was ‘Solving the mysteries of time and space: What’s outside the universe?’. How to describe the talk is not easy and most of it I didn’t understand but I was enthralled but there is no way I can reflect his message, but always ask the question was a message that came across. He was so good he even got a standing ovation at the end!
Throughout the two days there was a lot of other organisations with displays and talking about what they are up to in the startup market some very interesting. However one of the best stands was the Dutch police. They are probably the friendliest police we have come across and they clearly do a lot with technology and there was a big push showing what they do. They also had a section where they presented their own talks of 15-20 minutes on a wide variety of subjects. We listened to a couple but the one that stood our was ‘Machine Teacher’ by Joeri Peters, who is a data scientist looking at the data the justice system collects and how best to use it. Very interesting talk and an incredibly clever guy, who spoke amazing English like most of his colleagues! The police also had a couple of games on stand including one that meant you could get a hug from a police man or woman, obviously this was popular with a lot of people, wouldn’t get that in the UK!
So the two days went incredibly quickly and it was certainly inspiring to be around so much enthusiasm and innovation and it is a show I will be returning to in the future.