Lessons from Europes largest technology conference

The Web Summit 2016 attracted 50 000 attendees for its inaugural four-day conference held in Lisbon, Portugal. The conference brought together delegates from around the world. Activator, entrepreneur and TV show host of BizToday, Nazareen Ebrahim proudly represented Socially Acceptable after being awarded a ‘Women in Tech’ ticket. Socially Acceptable is a South African digital media and communications company she founded nearly three years ago.

“This was an incredible opportunity to learn from my international counterparts, interact with people from all over the globe and absorb a new energy to bring back to a South African context,” said Ebrahim on her return from the summit. “I fully appreciate the opportunities we have as entrepreneurs in South Africa and plan to pursue better solutions for businesses and to empower young people.”

Opening the summit, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa announced a €200 million venture capital fund to attract overseas startups to settle in Lisbon, Porto and Braga.  “We’ve realised that the best way to support financing is via co-investment and launching this program,” said Costa. “We created this new instrument because we believe that if we make money available to the right people to implement the right processes, we’ll be able to make the big investments to help reinforce a more dynamic and innovative economy,” he explained.

Corporate giants like Facebook, TAP Portugal, KPMG, Delta Caffes (who sponsored the coffee/tea stations for the entire Summit duration), Startup Lisboa, Indeed, Atlassian were feature stars at the Summit.

Prominent speakers also came from sport and film backgrounds. Hollywood actor, Joseph Gordon Levitt, founder of Tinder Sean Rad, soccer icons Ronaldinho and Luis Figo including technology and entrepreneurship expert Gary Vaynerchuck drew crowds at their various addresses and panel discussions.

Listening to Gordon Levitt and soccer heroes Ronaldinho and Luis Figo, Ebrahim said: “The energy and vibe was incredible. Here are individuals who have made tremendous strides in their respective industries and are world renowned, but have still experienced the challenges of growing a startup business. It further confirmed the importance of technological innovation, research and development in all industries.”

“The incredible number of conversations and networking opportunities that came out of the summit blew my mind. I realised that my skillset and knowledge base was on par with my international counterparts and that there is still so much more to be done in terms of knowledge acquisition in the digital and entrepreneurial spaces.”

What’s next for Ebrahim now that she is back in South Africa?

“The summit gave my business vision an electric jolt of new energy and revitalised my thinking around entrepreneurship and technology. Prior to going to the summit, I had started to stagnate in my thinking around growing the business and my service offering. Now that I’ve experienced a world outside my own, connected with like-minded individuals and grown my network with further international experts, I am confident that I can bring even more value to the South African market. As a female tech entrepreneur in this space, it brings me even more joy that I can share my experience with fellow female entrepreneurs and encourage them to travel and attend international conferences to bring them and their businesses a new wave of inspiration and confidence. Attending the Summit was a special experience for me, because it was a year of planning, hard work and dedicated allocation of funds before it was even confirmed that I would attend. God’s hand has been at work in making this trip a successful realisation and this belief is what gets me through building my company each day,” she says.

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