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  • Writer's pictureAshley Gallant

Web Summit 2023

A recap of Artemis' first time attending Web Summit, "The World's Largest Technology Conference"

Hi, Friends of Artemis! Executive Recruitment Consultant, Ashley Gallant here.


This November, I attended Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal for the first(ish) time. While on vacation in Barcelona last November, my friends and I met Canadian ex-pat Jenna Truong, CFO at Uvaro, whom Artemis partnered with Joseph Fung, Founder of Uvaro, to place (Kudos to Erin!). Upon mentioning our next stop was Lisbon, Jenna asked if it was for the purpose of attending the conference. While the event was previously not on our radar, we quickly learned we couldn't escape it. Web Summit takes over the city of Lisbon.


Whether it was on the bus en route to a surf trip, dining next to us, or at a vibrant cocktail bar, we found ourselves surrounded by folks in the tech ecosystem from around the world. My travel partners, who don’t work in tech, weren't prepared to see me in this light (discussing tech stacks with strangers wasn’t necessarily their idea of a good time). It was decided though, I was determined to return to Lisbon to attend Web Summit in 2023, and I am so glad I did.


Ahead of the conference, the Artemis team was all hands on deck to help me prepare. It was, after all, my first big tech conference and I was eager to soak up tips from my seasoned colleagues. We’ve packaged those up for you, too, here: Maximizing Your Impact at Tech Events: A Guide!



Upon arrival, I was buzzing with excitement. My background in tourism, festivals, and events, prior to joining Artemis, has given me a deep appreciation for the complexity and effort required to orchestrate an event of such magnitude. I was immediately struck by the impressive production quality and the distinguished lineup of speakers. Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia Founder, was an opening speaker, and as someone who uses Wikipedia for just about everything - I was feeling "fan-girly" out of the gate. (PS. do you donate to Wikipedia? That’s an icebreaker question I like to ask, it’s fun to see who in your social circles does. There’s always one person. I am not that person, but I appreciate those who do.)


Navigating an event as expansive as Web Summit, which boasts over 70,000 attendees and more than 800 speakers, presents an undeniable challenge. It's virtually impossible to experience everything on your wishlist, often due to overlapping schedules or sheer personal endurance and stamina. This year, in a spirit of post-Covid adventure, I also experienced Coachella for the first time. I couldn't help but feel the parallels in strategizing which acts to see, briskly moving across the venue to make it to the next "act" on time, and coordinating meeting spots with fellow attendees. The outfits weren’t nearly as flashy, but that’s probably for the best. That said, I was thoroughly impressed with the presentations I was able to catch.


Highlights included:


Leading with Vulnerability: Author Africa Brooke and Founder, Oliver Yonchev, discussed how embracing vulnerability in leadership is a strength to foster genuine connections and trust within teams. Particularly, discussions around getting curious about grey areas, in a respectful way, and embracing nuance can lead to growth and better understanding during uncomfortable conversations.


Founders as Outliers: Founders often operate outside conventional norms, driving innovation and challenging the status quo. Jenny Ruth Hrafnsdottir, Founding Partner at Crowberry Capital, explained that having a critical mind with openness is where the magic happens. Founders are often building the plane while flying it; having resilience, devotion to the mission, and the ability to think on their feet are all characteristics of outlier founders who stand out to both investors and employees.


Wellbeing of Founders & Execs: A critical theme focused on the mental and emotional health of leaders. The importance of self-care and balance in the relentless startup world, and whose role it is to ensure founders and execs are well taken care of, was particularly interesting. We often make light of this and refer to our work helping founders as being "founder therapy", but these are very real conversations that I hope to see more of.


The Post-Layoff Resignation/Hangover: Similarly, the emotional and operational impacts of layoffs, and how organizations can navigate the aftermath with empathy and strategic foresight were top of mind.


Doing More with Less: In light of economic shifts, there was a strong focus on resourcefulness and efficiency - achieving more impactful results with leaner resources. How early-stage founders build their teams efficiently and with talent that can “wear many hats”, stands out to investors. Psst…we can help with that.


Emerging Managers & Diversity: It was exciting to hear discussions about the rise of emerging managers and the emphasis on diversity in leadership, bringing fresh perspectives and inclusivity to the forefront.


Attracting Top Talent: Christine Spang, Co-Founder and CTO at Nyla, Simon Wistow, Co-Founder at Fastly, and Emil Eifrem, Founder of Neo4j discussed strategies to lure top talent from tech giants like FAANG. It's all about creating compelling narratives and offering unique growth opportunities. Your employer brand can be one that is appealing through impact, culture, autonomy, career growth, and mission-critical technology. Zoom out. How can your company be seen as an amazing thing on their resume when they move on?


Startup Playbook for 2024: My favourite of the sessions were the ones where VCs Eileen Burbidge, Partner at Passion Capital, Vera Baker, Venture Partner at Unconventional Ventures, Melda Akin, Founding & Managing Partner at SiriusLabs.ai, and Zach Coelius, Managing Partner at Coelius Capita, shared insights into the evolving startup landscape and what it takes to thrive in 2024. They advised startups to focus on product market fit, building teams earlier and faster, running tighter fundraising processes, building their network, being data-driven, and using funding in the most efficient ways were all top tips.




In terms of networking, it felt like there were endless opportunities to do so. Even across the ocean, I found myself connecting closely with Canadian ecosystem peers. The Toronto Booth called me home and I was able to spend some quality time with Friends of Artemis, Jay Krishnan, CEO of the Accelerator Centre, and Amanda Fortune, Head of Client Services at NorthGuide. I met amazing Canadian founders through the Startup Showcase and learned more about what the folks at Startup Montréal, ventureLAB, and BLUMEx are building. The session, “Why Toronto has the best tech talent in the world” certainly resonated with me - and it was exciting to hear that messaging on a global stage.


Overall, WebSummit was a conference I was inspired by. The content was bite-sized but rich. The conversations felt intimate, like sitting in on podcast recordings with some of the world's biggest founders and tech leaders. The city of Lisbon continues to intrigue me with its aura of feeling relaxed and effortlessly cool. It's a city that feels small and approachable, a place where you can have "small world" moments, like when I coincidentally met others from Kitchener-Waterloo not once, but twice. Hearing “Where are you really from?” when you say you’re from “just outside of Toronto” is a nuance that I am sure many of us can appreciate. I was proud to represent our tech community at Web Summit, and I look forward to doing it again next year. Who’s coming with me?


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Artemis Canada is a boutique executive search firm specializing in placing top talent in the tech sector across Canada, the United States, and Europe. Our team of experienced recruiters has a proven track record of finding exceptional candidates for a variety of roles, from C-suite positions to high-demand individual contributors. For more information on our services, please visit our website at https://www.artemiscanada.com/

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