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Dublin web summit shows a startup scene in rude health

Web Summit is one of Europe’s biggest gatherings of startup internet businesses and investors interested in backing them. Will Orde from Oxford Capital spent three days at the summit and couldn’t help being struck by the vibrancy of the early stage scene.

No matter what is happening at the later stage of the market, with discussions of unicorpses and little liquidity, the early stage start-up scene in Europe is vibrant and full of confidence. The majority of companies exhibiting at Web Summit were early stage start-ups, often pre-revenue, and as you walked up and down the aisles of booths all crammed together it was difficult to get through without being stopped. Investors were issued with red lanyards, which meant I was easily spotted by enthusiastic entrepreneurs looking to deliver their sales pitch and explain why they were going to be the next Snapchat.

It’s quite clear that the European start-up scene is no longer just about the more established clusters around London, Berlin and Paris. Across the whole span of Europe, from Portugal to Russia, countries are producing new and interesting entrepreneurs.

Cyber Security is part of everything
While there wasn’t an explicit Cyber Security theme at Web summit this year, it was a prominent topic across all of the stages, from building enterprise software with security in mind, to the psychology of cyber criminals. The quote which really stuck with me from one talk was:

“If you want your children to have a great career for the next decade teach them to code, if you want them to have a great career for life teach them about cyber security.”

At Oxford Capital we’re actively looking for innovative new cyber security companies and I enjoyed meeting a few more at Web Summit.

Is AI going to be the next technology revolution that changes the world?
With smartphones at a more mature phase in their technology life-cycle – it’s over 8 years since the first iPhone was launched – a lot of discussion at Web summit was focused on what’s going to be the next big technology to disrupt the world. There was a lot of talk about virtual reality, but the one that struck home for me was artificial intelligence. Today, machine learning software is being used to power self-driving cars, identify people in photos, create art and run personal assistants. While there are big questions around ethics and trust in a machine-controlled world – the holy grail of software that can mimic the human brain is still a long way off – AI and machine learning are having real-world impacts today and this will be a fascinating field to follow over the next year. If you’re an entrepreneur or start-up pushing the boundaries with machine or deep learning I’d love to learn more, so get in touch.

Closing thoughts

Web summit is a crazy experience. The sheer number of investors and start-ups there makes it difficult to navigate the event and find that one entrepreneur or investor you really wanted to catch up with, but I did have some great chance encounters with founders I hadn’t previously met.

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