Web Summit 2019: The Top Five Speakers We’re Eager to See

In a few days time, a delegation from Madano’s tech practice will descend on Lisbon for Web Summit, sometimes described as “the best technology conference on the planet”. Ahead of the event we’ve been pouring through the agenda to identify the speakers who we think will be the most interesting for corporate communications and PR professionals focused on the tech sector like ourselves.

Some of the speakers, like Edward Snowden, would speak at the opening of an envelope (by video link of course, and provided the contents of said envelope were kept confidential). Others, like Tony Blair, are divisive - fascinating for some but would raise the blood pressure for others. It might be “too soon” for some of us to bear hearing Michel Barnier’s vision for the EU less than a week after the Halloween Brexit deadline. We’ll see.

It’s not an easy task to pick out the most rewarding talks in advance, especially given that the New York Times described Web Summit as the “grand conclave of the tech industry’s high priests”. It was also very hard for football obsessives like us to resist putting Ronaldinho on the list, but we just about managed it: having seen him play once or twice, his public speaking will surely not be on the same level.

Here’s our picks, let us know if you’d strongly recommend other speakers!

  • Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner for Competition - Arguably the most powerful figure within the European tech scene and responsible for some whopping antitrust fines, the outgoing competition chief has been at times criticised for not moving fast enough, effectively shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. With fair competition so crucial to a vibrant tech ecosystem, both startups and mega corporations will be interested to see whether she goes out with a bang and will be listening for hints in a major address. The recent move against Broadcom may indicate that there could yet be some fireworks before a changing of the guard.

  • Nikki Lannen, CEO, WarDucks - There are some headwinds in the VR world, especially with the BBC and Google scrapping their respective projects, so those seeking succour and positivity will be drawn to Lannen’s talk. WarDucks has a consistent record of making hit games for the format and she’ll be on stage to discuss the sometimes fraught dynamics in the founder/VC relationship.

  • Kate Brandt - Chief Sustainability Officer, Google - With the protests of Extinction Rebellion ringing fresh in the ears for many attendees, Kate Brandt’s talk on the move to a circular economy and Google’s role in that will be great food for thought for the wider tech industry considering its carbon footprint. Just don’t mention the “flyksgam”!

  • Olaedo Osoka, CEO, DayStar Power - Given the amount of work that Madano does in the clean energy tech arena and events we have hosted on energy inequality in the past, we are looking forward to hearing about what Daystar Power is doing to Africa’s power gap with clean and reliable power. Expensive and unreliable power represent a heavy burden for Africa’s businesses, impeding their growth and development.
  • Rohit Prasad, VP & Head Scientist of Alexa Artificial Intelligence, Amazon - As voice assistants (and smart home devices generally) struggle against a backdrop of privacy scandals, Prasad will deliver his views on advancements in and democratisation of conversational AI. What can we expect from AI-enabled assistants over the next few years? And should we be excited or concerned? The audience should have plenty of questions.

If you're attending the Web Summit and have a communications challenge, we'd love to talk to you. Please contact Dominic Weeks to arrange a time to meet. See you soon, Lisbon!

madano.com is at Web Summit, Lisbon