The Next Web 2014, the biggest European conference on Internet so far and the Absence of Brussels from Amsterdam

The-Next-Web-LogoThe time for Europe’s biggest conference on Internet had come and the European Sting’s team was in Amsterdam on 24 and 25 April 2014, as official media sponsor of The Next Web 2014, “Power to the People”.

As every year, the Web’s biggest names came together at Westerpark in Amsterdam to share insights and views on the present and future of the Web. More than 2500 attendees from all over the world and more than 50 prominent speakers were the perfect setup for a revolutionary and innovative dialogue on Internet. Among them we met big personalities of the industry, like Kevin Rose, partner of Google Ventures, Jennifer Healey from Intel, Luis von Ahn from Duolingo, Brian Solis from Altimeter Group, James McQuivey from Digital Disruption and Brewster Kahle from Internet Archive.

The conference was smoothly ‘distributed’ in three ‘coloured’ rooms during the two days of the event, each one of which hosted stimulating presentations and discussions.

Day I

Red Room

The Next Web 2014 began with Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, co-founder of The Next Web initiative. As always, Boris raised the expectations very high for this year’s event; expectations that were met later on with the top quality presentations that followed.

The first speaker of the event was Luis von Ahn, co-founder of Duolingo, inventor of CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA. The title of his presentation was “Harnessing Human Time and Energy for Society”. Luis spoke there about how to release and grow human skills with the use of computers, referring to his inventions, reCaptcha and Duolingo, that have contributed significantly to the accessibility of education.

Right after that Kevin Rose from Google Ventures came to the floor to present his thoughts on “The Rise of Corporations in Tech Venture Capital”. Later on James McQuivey From Digital Disruption gave his speech on “The Next Disruption: Where Digital will lead us”. The topic of digital disruption is getting more and more significant importance today in the Web debate as it is everywhere, from consumers to banks and all kind of brands. Dr McQuivey helped us to envisage the future of disruption. Moreover, the insights of the red room during Day I continued with Brian Solis from Altimeter Group with his discussion on “What’s the Future of Business?”, stimulating the audience on the current trends of digital commerce.

Rahul Sood from Microsoft Ventures later discussed how to “build”, “grow” and “scale” a startup business in an already “crowded” Web. The red room ‘debate’ continued with how our lives are influenced and changed radically by “connectedness”, a speech made by Dadara from Exchangibition Bank. Following that, Aral Balkan from Indie Phone opened the extremely important debate on open-source services and products on the Web in contrast to closed social media and services like Facebook that give us goods for free in exchange of our data privacy and digital freedom. What is  more, John Lunn from Paypal later shared with us a glimpse of the “future of shopping”.

Among the last sessions of Day I at the Red Room, one could distinguish the presentation titled “Quantum Computing for You”, by Leo Kouwenhoven from University of Delft, attempting to bridge the gap between quantum theory and the Internet. The day was coming to an end in the red room and Mr David Shing from AOL gave a good speech on “the Art of Storytelling”. The secret according to the AOL digital prophet is how engaging the story is and less its content per se.

Blue Room

The first day of TNW 2014 began in the blue room with Scott Brinker, CTO of Ion Interactive. His presentation with the title “The Golden Age of Marketing Software” where he presented us the end of traditional marketing disciplines. Instead the modern marketer needs to keep up with code and software needs to be able to analyse effectively its consumers. Later on, Paul Heywood from Dyn came to the stage to give the presentation “Welcome to the Era of Cooperation”, claiming that it is the consumers today that have the power and not the companies. Just before lunch, Evan Nisselson from LDV capital, presented to us  “Europe’s Fastest Growing Tech Companies”.  Mr Nisselson continued right after lunch talking about “Industry Pro’s Sharing their big passion”. Later Mr Roeland Prins from Adyen Payments held his presentation titled “Grow: Roelant Prins”.

Green Room

Ayelet Noff from Blonde 2.0 initiated the presentations in the green room with the discussion “Pitch Competition” where via boost the best startups were awarded with a prize. The green room sessions that followed during the first day were the “startup stories” by Morten Lunc and Luis Von Ahn, the Go to Market presentations by Wyatt Jekins from Shutterstock, Daniel Hasselber and Shira Abel from Hunter and Brand on behavioural engineering. Finally the Green room sessions at the first day of TNW14 closed with “funding” insights provided by Rahul Sood from Microsoft and Martin Mignot from Index Ventures.

Day II

Red Room

The second day of TNW 14 in red room began with Brewster Kahle giving a stimulating lecture on the “knowledge economy” and the systematic ‘digitalisation’ of books and literature by organisations like Wikipedia and Mozilla Foundation that will make redundant the need of books in the future. The position of open-source in this was stressed. A bit later, Marc Smith, from Connected Action Consulting Group held the presentation “Mapping and measuring connections”, describing how social media mapping can provide unique insights on trendsetting issues and brands.

Moreover, Mr Nir Eyal, author of the interesting book “Hooked’, talked about emotions and sociality and how Internet and new media have the tremendous power to engage the people like never before in history. In addition, Dale Stephens right after that gave us the enlightening presentation “Learning how to learn” describing the urgent need of the shoals of the 21st century to incorporate ICT education for their students promptly. Then Mrs Healey from Intel joined the debate in the red room and talked about the future of private data, modern ways of data collection and the big issue of data privacy given the trends of technology and market.

Later Ancilla Tilia, activist in favour of data privacy, she initiated a speech on data privacy and politics. One of the most interesting presentation last Friday afternoon was the one by Stefan Molyneux on politics and the banking and monetary system. Then Matt Ruby, founder of Vooza, presented to us the startup app that ‘steals’ data from cellphones and sells it to Eastern European spammers. The last pitch at the red room for TNW14 was made by Dr David Weinberger, author of “too big to know”, who supported an open accessible platform to everybody on the Web.

Blue Room

The first lecture of the second and final day of TNW in blue room was given by Jonathan Wisler, General manager of SoftLayer, who gave us an idea on how to grow on the Web with cloud computing and open data. Right after him, the co-founder of Pinterest was there with his presentation “Designing Discovery”. This lecture is about a new “common language” that will enable people to communicate and empathise with each other better. Moreover, Eze Vidra from Google campus London gave a presentation on “Europe’s Digital Future” about European startup ecosystems.

We are always at the blue room of TNW14 and Gary Liu, senior executive of Spotify came to the stage. He started a very interesting discussion on how brands can do better with music on the Web. Another interesting presentation on that day was the one by Jessica Lawrence, from NY tech meet up who preached on growing the startup culture.

One of the last lectures on that day was the one made by Brendan Gahan, Youtube expert, who gave us some tips on how one can generate viral content.

Green Room

Last but not least, there were quite a few seminars at the Green room during the second day of TNW14. The presentation of the Sanoma Startup Challenge 2014 was among the most interesting sessions, as digital startups engaging on the field of education were awarded with a prize of 25,000 euros. Later, the CEO of Sanoma, John Martin, talked about the future of digital learning. Last, but not least, Matt Cynamon from General Assembly presented us with an insightful speech on “Transforming thinkers into creators”.

The absence of Brussels

All in all The Next Web 2014 “Power to the People” delivered for one more year its ambitious promise, to gather Internet’s most prominent personalities and call them to show us the ‘next step’. The insightful presentations given can work as powerful stimuli for the attendee to think further about how to grow inside the Web in a sustainable manner. Even for the sceptical ones that were not convinced by the experienced and skilled speakers, just a brief chat with the numerous ‘CEOs’ of the newly launched apps that were exhibiting at the venue was able to confirm to them that there was something magic happening at Westerpark last week. And that something was nothing else but the presence of the bold and fearless creative minds that try to change the world with two lines of code.

As we look forward to a bigger and richer The Next Web 2015, we hope that Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, does make it next time finally to Amsterdam. It is her home country after all. We were not satisfied by the fact that Mrs Kroes cancelled her attendance and speech on last minute. It is absolutely needed that the Commissioner, as well as officials from her DG, attend events of this magnitude on the Internet. It is inevitable that the market goes faster than policy; this is understandable. But this is also exactly the reason why the policy makers need to run faster and be always present to listen to the cutting edge evolutions of the Web market. We believe that Brussels was not represented at this event sufficiently and we hope that we will see more ‘familiar faces’ in the biggest event on Internet in the Old Content, #TNW15.

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