Web Summit 2021: Climate and cryptos are this year’s key themes, says CEO Paddy Cosgrave

The technological world has descended on Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, for the Web Summit 2021. With all 40,000 tickets sold, the event has made a comeback from the epidemic, exceeding organizers’ expectations. The four-day event’s main themes are climate change and cryptocurrency.

Euronews Next spoke with Paddy Cosgrave, the Web Summit’s CEO, to find out what we may expect this year. There were times during the last two years as the organizers of Web Summit when we wondered if we’d ever go back to organizing an event. And now we have tens of thousands of individuals from all over the world joining us.

What are this year’s themes?

There are a few recurring themes. On opening night, Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower, is at the top of the bill.
We’ll also hear from Nick Clegg, the CEO of Facebook. Climate and cryptocurrency are dominated by two factors.

There are around 200 climate-related start-ups in this city. Some of them aren’t even tiny businesses. Some of them are rapidly expanding businesses. The other ‘C’ is cryptography. The inventor of Sorare, arguably the most important NFT platform, was among the more than 200 start-ups exhibiting, speaking in that space, and opening night.

COP26 is taking place at the same time; how will the climate events differ?

There’s some overlap of speakers. I think there are stark differences. I think it’s very important that the large policymakers, political leaders and the world’s largest polluters are meeting at COP26. It’s very important that they find a way forward.

Simultaneously, many of the firms driving the inventions that will hopefully shift the earth in the direction we so sorely need to be going are also there. Regardless of what restrictions are enacted, many of the firms on stage at Web Summit are aiming for a carbon-neutral future in any way they can. That said, I sincerely hope that at COP26, politicians and large polluters can reach an accord.

Which speakers are you most looking forward to hosting?

Well, there are a lot of interesting speakers, but I’m a bit of a purist. Tim Berners-Lee invented the internet many years ago. At this time, it appears to be, you know, in internet or online terms. Sir Tim built the web at CERN centuries ago, and he’ll be back to talk about the web’s future at the event’s conclusion. And a great deal of it revolves around decentralized protocols. And for many of the crypto enthusiasts in attendance, that’s a talk. They’ll all be swarming into the building. Within the web, he’s like a messiah or godfather figure.

And which start-ups have you been looking forward to this year?

I couldn’t possible choose a favorite, but I believe that some of the climate-related growth stage enterprises will, in some circumstances, have a huge impact on the globe, regardless of whether they rewrite the rules at COP26 this week or next week. Many of these businesses will continue to have a significant beneficial impact on our planet, which I believe is terrific.

What does it feel like to witness Web Summit grow from a tiny gathering in Ireland to a major gathering in Portugal?

It began with 150 people in Dublin approximately a decade ago. And now it’s on a scale that I don’t believe any of us could have imagined. It, I believe, depicts the expansion of technology in our daily life. It’s no longer just a cute grey object with a computer that sits in the corner of a room. We’re all glued to our phones, and technology, in its various forms, pervades every part of our lives, from elections to content consumption.

The television is no longer the most popular platform. All of these tech-enabled tools and platforms are involved. There’s a lot to talk about here. There’s so much going on, and it’s all happening so quickly, that Web Summit has grown from a small, obscure event a decade ago to something considerably larger and probably more meaningful.

What made you decide on Lisbon?

We made the decision to relocate here five years ago. In Dublin, we ran out of room. We’ve also reached maximum capacity in Lisbon, which is incredible. Everywhere we go, we have to erect makeshift structures. In November, we came here for the sun. It’s a wonderful city.

Since we’ve arrived, it’s gone from practically being Europe’s forgotten child to being the sexiest kid on the block. People are migrating here from all over the world, in every industry, from fashion IT to Hollywood. It’s also a fantastic location for a November event. You’ve need to be in Lisbon in November if you’re going to Glasgow.

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