Web Summit 2021: Highlights of the Technology Event
During our immersion in Web Summit 2021, Europe’s largest technology conference, we witnessed an optimistic scenario of economic recovery. The event, which took place between November 1 and 4, brought together more than 40,000 people in the Portuguese capital, where thinkers and experts from all over the world debated the future of society and technology in a post-pandemic world. In the following article, we will go over highlights taken from some lectures about the universe of startups. Among the main subjects are market fit, investment funds, internationalization, marketing, and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Finding Market Fit is an Art
According to Evgenia Plotnikova, partner of Dawn Capital, for a long time, innovation and large investments were aimed at countries outside the European scenario, such as the United States. “This reality has changed in recent years and we now have a lot of capital in Europe. For the first time, we are really seeing new investment funds and startups appearing all the time in the most diverse countries”, she contextualizes.
The advances of Venture Capital is something that is happening in proportion to the emergence of new ideas. Nevertheless, for the startup to be attractive, it is necessary to find the market fit. “The biggest measurement to measure market fit remains the purchase. Keep in mind that NPS metrics and user-centric searches are also essential. If you don’t start scaling significantly that’s fine: learn to take advantage of this situation and invest time learning about your own product.”
Evgenia emphasizes that finding an investor who is interested in mentoring is a big competitive advantage in the scaling process. So look for people who really understand your business, especially in niche industries like software. “At the end of the day, it’s a matter of finding the right person to work with you. Think of this partnership as a marriage. Build a safe product or service for you and your customers.”
At Web Summit 2021, the investor warned that it is easy to forget that the goal is to build a solution to users’ problems. Therefore, it is important to keep them amazed by the experience that the product or service provides. “If you spend more money to attract the lead than it will spend to use your solution, rethink your business model. Maybe the product is great, but the sales strategy is incorrect”.
How to Win Over Your First Fundraising
After finding the market fit, many startups go through the capital injection process to develop or scale their idea. But, how to win over investors? According to Zach Coelius, managing partner of Coelius Capital, an MVP can be a great ally. “Everything that helps to realize the potential of the business is essential to attract the attention of investors. Look for people who understand your industry and remember that this relationship needs to be healthy. Money is important, but it doesn’t solve everything”, he warns.
During his speech at Web Summit 2021, Coelius highlighted that the first step is to create a relationship of trust, that is, don’t try to ask an investor for money on the first approach. “In the investor community, trust must come first. So, keep the potential investor updated on the status of the business and how it has grown over time. Once the relationship is mature, the investor will have no difficulties in saying yes to your proposal”.
For Sarah Kunst, founder and managing director of Cleo Capital, everything revolves around a good pitch. Therefore, know how to answer who you are and what you are willing to solve in 25 seconds. “The big mistake of entrepreneurs is that they spend too much time introducing their idea. What I’m looking for is information that solves problems in the real world. So don’t waste time on irrelevant details. Be unique, simple and clear”, she advises.
Sarah points out that being active on social media is an excellent strategy. “If you want to build a relationship with investors, do it authentically. Invest time in social media, especially Twitter, a platform widely used by investors. Once the dialogue starts to flow, make sure you trust these people.”
Why should some startups internationalize and others not?
In the startup world, it is not all about money. The strategy and positioning adopted in the market are also essential for the survival of companies. There are new stories every day about startups that started to grow rapidly to the point of reaching international markets. However, before you think this is a natural journey for everyone, ask yourself: Is your product or service capable of solving a problem in the global market?
This answer is essential to developing an action plan. Being international is part of the scaling process of many startups and established companies, but it is necessary to be careful not to let the “fear of being left behind” get in the way of strategic decisions. Starting an internationalization project requires time, dedication, and a lot of data analysis.
According to Roberto Grosman, COO of Descomplica, the Brazilian digital education company does not intend to internationalize at this time, as Brazil is a giant country, with a good territory to be explored. “First we need to understand what we want to achieve as an organization. Descomplica impacts the lives of many people who would not have the money for a good education and this has a very significant weight”, he points out.
Grosman shared at Web Summit 2021 that the FOMO syndrome (Fear of missing out) is unforgiving with contemporary companies, but it is still necessary to be cautious and sure that a good job is being developed, especially when the company’s purpose is to transform lives. “We keep a close eye on what happens in the world, but all within our expectations. We decided to grow first in Brazil, which is why we are currently taking the time to understand this national market, which is full of diversity and challenges. In addition, it’s not common to see a global education company. We do think about going international, but first, we need to understand why to do this”.
Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
On the other hand, for Victor Ribeiro, EVP Product Development of Gympass (corporate physical activity platform), the opportunities are many and this is the right time to expand the business. However, there are many factors that must be analyzed in each scenario. “Of course money is important; after all, you want to expand your market to get more revenue. If you have the technology for this and can prove your theory of internationalization, go ahead and put your plan into action”.
During a lecture at Web Summit 2021, Ribeiro highlighted that product-market fit needs to be the big must-have of the decision-making process. Therefore, if it doesn’t exist, internationalizing doesn’t make sense. If it exists, analyze the competition in detail. “Start with questions such as: is it worth going to the United States or should I invest in a smaller country to test my strategies? And of course, have a good experimentation plan laid out. Keep in mind that if you don’t expand geographically, sooner or later someone will confront you in the market. In addition, be prepared to leave your comfort zone and experience different cultures and challenges”, he warns.
Marketing in 2022
A good geographic expansion plan needs to have good marketing strategies. Web Summit 2021 also brought together world leaders and experts in this segment and, to learn more about the trends that will be part of the marketing routine in the coming years, we attended a lecture with big names in this sector. Jessica Spence, president of the Beam Suntory brands, a multinational company that produces alcoholic beverages, guarantees that the quality and consistency of content production will continue to rise.
In addition, according to Jessica, the next year will again bring the opportunity for brands to reduce their negative impact on the environment and society. “In 2022 we will have the chance to invest in sustainability and more inclusive digital strategies. There has been a lot of talk about big data, mainly on how we can obtain relevant and high-quality information while respecting and dealing transparently with sensitive consumer data. This will be the core business of the marketing of the future”, she points out.
However, the new marketing does not rely only on data; creativity is still the most valued skill in this sector, which will undergo a major transformation with the arrival of the metaverse – a virtual world where it is possible to interact through digital avatars. “I am very optimistic about changes in the market and consumer behavior. The metaverse will be an incredibly competitive environment full of possibilities. The question we have to answer is: how do we make this digital universe a better place?”
Peace, Love and Sustainability
Jane Wakely, CMO of Mars, one of the largest private corporations in the United States, which owns brands such as M&M’s, Snickers and Twix, is betting that the sustainable growth of the brands will be one of the important strategies in the next year. “It’s time to focus on what will not change. It is necessary to put the needs of consumers and stakeholders first. We need to reinvent business and make it more sustainable. We are experiencing an environmental crisis and it will only be possible to resolve it by joining forces”.
Experts believe we will see more of the Slow Movement in the next years. This movement proposes the deceleration of everyday life and makes room for more sustainable initiatives. “We need significant and impactful changes to create a better world. We know that the benefit needs to be mutual and that brands need to be devoted and dedicated to their values. In the midst of this revolution, we cannot forget that Artificial Intelligence is the new sexy and that creating more immersive experiences for consumers will be our biggest challenge”, Jane reflects.
For Sir Martin Sorrell, founder of S4 Capital, we live in bubbles delimited by algorithms and we are becoming increasingly isolated in our universes, also due to political issues such as for example, Brexit and the last United States elections. However, the market is showing signs that next year we will see massive investments in Facebook, one of the social networks that face the most problems with data privacy and the control of Fake News. Out of this bubble, Sorrell points out that Artificial Intelligence in marketing is already a reality, so we need to learn about this universe in order not to succumb to the metaverse.
Artificial Intelligence: the Future of Business
To better understand this robot-powered world, we attended a lecture on Artificial Intelligence on the center stage of Web Summit 2021. Daniela Braga, founder of Defined.ai, stressed that scientists want to extract the very best in technology and that big changes are already on the horizon. “Human and technological evolution takes time and it is necessary to establish limits and guidelines that help in the relationship between humans and machines. There is no stopping constant technological advancement. Robots will not steal our jobs; they will do what we are no longer willing to do.”
When asked about the players in the sector, Daniela said she believes that the great advances in Artificial Intelligence will not come from Europe, but from the United States and China. For the scientist, these countries have 70% of the resources related to the sector, in addition to also having a broad domain in complex data analysis.
On the other hand, for Daniel Dines, CEO of UiPath, AI is global, so it should not be treated as something exclusive to a nation. “We all must have a robot. There is no reason to fear them, on the contrary. Enjoy this interaction and think about how they can do tasks that we no longer want to do. Think about the time we will have to put soft skills into practice”.
In the technological, innovative, and multicultural ecosystem of Web Summit 2021, everything seems possible. In this atmosphere, humans, their ideas, and startups are the protagonists of the most prominent moments of the conference. To talk about the initiatives that contribute to a better world, in the next article in this series, we will cover topics such as remote work, technology in the pandemic, and society.
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