Day Three (Final) Web Summit Review

Web Summit likes to go out with a bang and Thursday was no exception with Peter Thiel of Paypal and Facebook courting the crowd, followed by U2’s Bono closing out proceedings at the event dubbed #DavosForGeeks.

During the day Lorraine Twohill, global VP of Marketing for Google, discussed programmatic buying. Precision programmatic buying is a marketing goal for Google itself, having set a target of 60% of digital spend globally to be bought programmatically. Programmatic buying has some limitations and until these are lifted, Google won’t make its target easily.

As the funding competitions wound up Codacy won the BETA startup pitch, having developed an automated code review tool. Using a “freemium” model, users can check code for security issues, accuracy, coding style and other metrics and lets the user get informed of his progress through rich visuals. Codacy currently has over 3,000 users and growing.

In the ALPHA startup pitch competition BaseStone was the winner. ALPHA is intended for technology companies in early stages of development. BaseStone is based in the UK and aims to streamline communication and speed up the design review process between architects, builders and developers. Both startups won 10,000 Euros and a pitch opportunity at the Coca Cola global HQ in Atlanta.

Bitcoin made news on both the Centre Stage and the Builders Stage. Gavin Andressen from the Bitcoin foundation discussed how Bitcoin is undergoing centralized mining but this could be reversed in the future. Regulatory issues are still his main concern for the cryptocurrency as there are major countries, like Russia and China, that he feels over-regulate in this field.

Peter Smith from Blockchain talked about the company’s journey to 2.5+ million users over the past few years. He emphasised Bitcoin’s utility for Countries where the population don’t have access to regular banking and currency transfers are still prohibitively expensive. Describing bitcoin as “magical internet money”, Peter denied any work in progress to integrate with Google wallet of Apple pay.

As one of the ‘Star’ billings of the Summit, Peter Thiel played the crowd beautifully saying that the Web Summit and its participants were not a representative of “slacker Europe”. This referenced a comment he made two months ago in a Financial Times interview about Europe in which he stated that Europe was “a slacker with low expectations, held back by a poor work ethic and held back by politicians who strangle technological progress.”.

Peter also discussed his views on Artificial Intelligence and his belief that it is very far in the future. He blieves that the challenge with Artificial Intelligence is not technological, but political. He gave the example of the ‘flying car’ that he gets pitched about by entrepreneurs around one to two times per year. A flying car can happen, but since “the world of bits is not regulated but the world of atoms is heavily regulated” it can be a big issue from the regulatory standpoint.

Artists, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist Paul Hewson (Bono to his mates) was the last speaker for the day and of the conference as a whole. He discussed being “the most hated person on the Internet” for the three days after Apple released U2’s latest album for free on iTunes. He believes making a lot of people that were uninterested in U2 now hate U2 is still an improvement and one that he made Tim Cook pay handsomely to make this album end up free, exclusievely on iTunes.

All in all, for an event that has gone from 400 people in a lecture theatre to a solid 20,000+ in four years is a remarkable achievement and given the numbers who headed off to hotels, pub, clubs and restaurants yesterday to make plans for Web Summit 2015, Collision 2015 in the US or Sync Conference in Asia (both siter events to Web Summit) next year will be an even bigger on for the Web Summi brand, the Technology industry and for Paddy Cosgrave.