A Glimpse into the Future: Impressions from Web Summit and GITEX Technology Week

Technology conferences are a dime a dozen these days, but Web Summit in Lisbon and GITEX Technology Week in Dubai are the big fish in a very large pond. With 70,000 and 100,000 attendees recorded respectively for this year’s events, these conferences give us an important glimpse into the big picture of where technology is headed and how we should feel about it.

Despite being held on two different continents, both events are addressing the world, and are filled with tech superstars, important tech announcements and product launches and, of course, countless investors and startups.

For 2018, both Web Summit and GITEX invited Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, to speak about the changes that need to be made in how the internet functions so that it can become a better tool for a better world. His was one of the loudest in a sea of voices suggesting that we might be on the verge of technology turning into a negative force and how we let it develop will play a major role in what our lives look like in as little as 5 or 10 years.

UN Secretary General António Guterres also took to the Web Summit stage to speak about the challenges that developments in technology pose to our society, be it increased unemployment, privacy violations or human agency concerns. The Secretary General underlined the importance of making sure people are protected from the threats of new technologies can pose while benefitting from the positive sides of it.

As usual, several EBAN members attended Web Summit and participated in various sessions at the event. With GITEX on the other hand, EBAN sent a delegation of angel investors to share their knowledge and expertise, being the largest network of business angels present at the event. The GITEX delegation had similar impressions regarding the perils of technology discussed at Web Summit.

Ricardo Luz, Emeritus President of Invicta Angels and Partner at Gestluz Consultores, who attended GITEX as one of the EBAN representatives commented: “it is difficult not to be surprised by the latest developments in terms of Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Cars, Blockchain or the multi-sensory experience of Future Urbanism, which will be sure to drastically change how we move around, live, or work. But I also felt that we are already on the threshold of a future where everything and everyone will be monitored and in which one of the great dilemmas will be the dichotomy of Technology versus Freedom.”

From left: Albert Colomer, Peter Braun and Ricardo Luz at GITEX

With GITEX working to put the MENA region on the map for the tech sector, technology giants are definitely a staple for the event, but a lot of attention is also paid to startups and, consequently, investors. Branko Drobnak, President of Business Angels of Slovenia, part of the EBAN delegation at GITEX mentioned: “We have observed a large increase in the quality of startups and the number of early stage investors from MENA states at the event, as well as a larger number of investors from other regions.” He also underscored the importance of connecting EBAN member angels to MENA business angel clubs in order to exchange experience and strengthen ties and collaboration between the angel ecosystems of the two regions.

Other EBAN representatives who participated in the GITEX event were: Juan Alvarez de Lara, Founder and CEO of Seed&Click, Peter Braun, Angel Investor and Serial Entrepreneur, Albert Colomer, Director of Business Angels Network Catalunya, Amparo de San Jose, CEO of IESE’s Business Angels Network, Audra Shallal, Nordic Female Business Angel Network Board Member, and Ian Sosso, Founder and Managing Partner of Monte Carlo Capital.

EBAN would like to thank its members for waving the business angel flag at two of the biggest technology conferences in the world. But on the question of whether the positive effects of technological development will outweigh the negative ones, there is no definitive answer. The main concern for us is how business angels can get more involved in pushing technology in the right direction and using their investment to back startups that will make the world a better place.