I’ve been travelling from Angola back to Lisbon, the city with a heart, the city that shaped me during the initial 25 years of my life, countless times, but I never felt that this heart could be so big! I will always carry with me the energy of Web Summit’s Opening Night in Lisbon, which set the stage for a week of critical conversations about the complexities created when technology, society and innovation collide.
Lisbon is a secure hub for unicorns and innovations, serving as the perfect backdrop for this collective stage for progress. Tech enthusiasts, innovators, representing world class creative hubs from around the globe gathered to explore the unknown into the web of artificial intelligence and its profound impact on our world. The Altice Arena doors swung open at 4 pm and we indulged in the finest flavours that the Web Summit has to offer – just a taste of what’s in store.
Web Summit’s Centre Stage on the Opening Night
On the vibrant Opening Night, the spotlight shines on Centre Stage, where the atmosphere crackles with excitement and Web Summit CEO Katherine Maher and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales take the stage. Their presence promises a night of insightful discussions and thought-provoking revelations.
Carlos Moedas, The Mayor of Lisbon passionately spoke about the daily pursuit of innovation, the creation of dreams and the liberation associated with a sense of belonging.The overarching theme of the Web Summit is to showcase technologies that don’t just innovate but also contribute to shaping a better future for all.
Pedro Siza Vieira, the Minister of Economy stressed the imperative need for groundbreaking ideas to address pressing global issues such as climate change, carbon emissions and the transformative potential of AI as the electricity of the century. Additionally, a focus on renewable energy, urban mobility, and a circular economy was highlighted. In this narrative, women stand as key contributors, bringing unique perspectives and solutions to the table. The resounding message is a call to appreciate and make the most of the world we inhabit.
Katherine Maher, Web Summit’s new CEO, in her inaugural address, highlighting the role of Web Summit being more urgent than ever, given the rapid pace of technological progress and its far-reaching implications.
But the thrill doesn’t stop there. The opening ceremony also welcomes some of the biggest stars of Portuguese tech and politics, including the trailblazing co-founder and CEO of Unbabel, Vasco Pedro, and the accomplished managing partner of Indico Capital Partners, Cristina Fonseca, among other notable figures.
During the opening, Katherine Maher spoke to a mesmerised audience about the importance of facing challenges, fostering meaningful connections and engaging in substantive conversations about AI. The primary focus lies on the ongoing technological evolution, particularly the role of AI and its intricate relationship with the human dimension.
Discussions revolve around instilling trust in AI, actively participating in transformative processes, and exploring diverse technological applications that can contribute to a more promising future. Noteworthy speakers such as Cristina Fonseca, Vasco Pedro, and Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy shared insights, emphasising the significance of understanding risks and striking a delicate balance for sustainable success.
Katherine Maher led Wikipedia as CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation. She is a longtime advocate for free and open societies, and has worked around the world leading the integration of technology and innovation in human rights, good governance, and international development. Katherine has worked with UNICEF, the National Democratic Institute,the World Bank, and Access Now
on programs supporting technologies for democratic participation, civic engagement, and open government. She is a Term Member at the Council on Foreign Relations, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and a Security Fellow at the Truman Project. She is on the Board of the American University of Beirut and the Digital Public Library of America.
Cristina Fonseca, a trailblazer in the tech industry, is a Portuguese tech entrepreneur, Angel investor and Engineer, better known as one of the founders of Talkdesk, a cloud-based help desk software that became Portugal’s third “unicorn” after raising US$100M in series B funding at a valuation of over US$1 billion in October 2018.
Christina shared deep insights on ‘Building Trust in AI. Her compelling insights shed light on the necessity of fostering confidence in the capabilities of artificial intelligence. As the co-founder of Talkdesk, Fonseca embodies the essence of women breaking barriers in the tech world.
Dr Vasco Pedro
Dr Vasco Pedro encouraged us to ‘Inspire and be part of the change. His words echoed the sentiment that for meaningful progress, we must actively participate in the transformative processes that define our technological landscape.
He is a Singularity University expert in Artificial Intelligence & Entrepreneurship. He is a co-founder and CEO of Unbabel, a company that removes language barriers by blending artificial intelligence with real time, human translations.He developed his love of both languages and technology during his time at Carnegie Mellon University. After a degree in language and knowledge learning, Vasco went on to develop his Masters and then Doctorate around the topic of Language Technologies – an academic study that covered over a decade of research. Vasco then worked at both Siemens and Google where he helped develop technologies to further understand data computation and language at scale.It was at this stage Vasco yearned to become an entrepreneur. After founding two startups, he went on to co-found Unbabel in 2013. Vasco’s knowledge of bridging both language and technology is at the core of everything that is built at Unbabel. He is bilingual in Portuguese and English and speaks enough Japanese to order a round of sake.
Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia
The ever-inspiring Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, took us on a reflective journey, drawing parallels between the divergent opinions experienced during the creation of Wikipedia and the current state of the tech world. His advice was simple yet profound: “Have fun.” Enjoying the process becomes an essential component of sustainable success. He describes himself as ‘not a very money motivated person’.
Jimmy Wales, born on August 8, 1966, in Huntsville, Alabama, has a rich entrepreneurial history, having also founded Nupedia, the precursor to Wikipedia, and collaborated with Tim Shell in the formation of the company Bomis. Additionally, he co-founded the for-profit venture Fandom (formerly Wikia) with Angela Beesley. Wales earned his education from both Auburn and Alabama Universities.
His groundbreaking work in creating and nurturing Wikipedia, which, as of 2021, stands as the world’s largest encyclopaedia, earned him a spot on Time magazine’s 2006 list of the 100 most influential people globally. In particular, he was recognized in the category of Scientists and Thinkers, solidifying his legacy as a trailblazer in the world of information dissemination and collaborative knowledge-building.
On reflection, reporting from this electrifying event is a privilege. I couldn’t help but be captivated by the vibrant discussions that unfolded on the first day, and for me, as an editor, championing female leadership is really important to note the pivotal role of women in shaping the future of technology.
I am thrilled to witness a diverse and dynamic representation of women in tech, contributing to the ongoing dialogue about the future of AI.
The resounding message is clear: it’s time for women to step into the spotlight, inspire change, and lead the way towards a future where technology is not just innovative but inclusive and empowering for all. In my own opinion at the heart of this adventure is the ongoing technological evolution, with a spotlight on the delicate but promising possibility of creating a strong alliance between AI and the human dimension.
The Web Summit in Lisbon is not just a conference; it’s a celebration of the unstoppable force that is Women in Tech and I am here to share with you this electrifying experience every day. Please come back for more!
Web Summit brings together 70,000+ people and companies redefining the tech industry. As we started the second day, you can watch the Centre Stage live stream too!
Web Summit in their own words
We’re a company from Dublin, Ireland, that holds events all over the world: Web Summit in Lisbon, Web Summit Rio in Rio de Janeiro, Collision in Toronto, and RISE in Hong Kong.“the world’s premier tech conference” (Politico ); “where the future goes to be born”; “a grand conclave of the tech industry’s high priests” (the New York Times). At a time of great uncertainty for many industries and, indeed, the world itself, we gather heads of government, cultural leaders, the CEOs of tech companies, and startup founders looking for their next step, to ask: Where to next?