Blog 53

I’d heard that Web Summit was “the best technology conference on the planet” so this week I thought I’d go and see for myself if this was true.

My trip started off on Monday night with me being worried about my flight being cancelled after thick fog covered most of the UK. Winter is coming.

Fortunately, when I woke up on Tuesday morning the fog had cleared and I was able to catch the first flight over to Dublin.

When I arrived in Dublin I jumped in a cab and set out for the event. The cabbie told me that the event was moving to Lisbon next year and that he was happy because it brought him nothing but traffic. The journey to the event proved his point.

The Summit this year was split into 21 separate “summits” or as every other conference would call them, tracks. This made trying to decide which events to go to a tough choice and of course, a good problem to have.

21 Summits

With each talk lasting between 20 – 40 minutes, I heard all kinds of inspiring people share their insights, but here’s is a brief overview of my highlights:

Tuesday’s Highlights

Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR – the company behind the Oculus Rift, spoke about Bringing Virtual Reality to the masses. What impressed me the most about Palmer is he came on the stage in a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and flip flops. I guess when Facebook acquires your company for $2 billion you can dress how you like. Luckey’s vision is that in his lifetime you’ll be able to experience everything through virtual reality and the difference between that and the real thing would be minimal.

The highlight of the day was listening to Edwin van der Sar, the former Man United goalkeeper and now the CMO of Ajax FC, talking about retiring from football and moving into the business side of football. Edwin’s journey seems quite unique in the world of football but it seems he’s as good at business as he was between the posts as he’ll be taking on the role of CEO of Ajax next year.

Edwin var der Sar being interviewed at Web Summit 2015

The highlight of the evening was watching United finally score a goal against CSKV Moscow. Sign of the times.

Wednesday’s Highlights

Two interviews I found particularly interesting were Matt Kalish, the CRO & Founder of Draft Kings, and Nigel Eccles, the CEO of Fan Duel. Draft King and Fan Duel are the market leading companies in the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) industry. DFS is huge in the US but hasn’t yet taken off over in the UK. In the US DFS has been going through some turbulent times of late due to some politicians questioning whether it’s gambling and should therefore be illegal. Both speakers completely disagreed that it’s gambling and said choosing a team requires skill and players get better over time. An argument I’m inclined to agree with.

Kalish spoke about how the biggest challenge they’ve faced is trying to scale the technology platform as they faced the “unique problem of all their users being on site at the same time”. He was referring to the fact that their match day traffic was significantly bigger than a normal day. This is a problem that the UK gambling industry has faced for well over a decade now and something that Degree 53 has lots of experience in.

Tinder’s founder and CEO, Sean Rad, was interviewed and told us that around 1.8 million dates, 1 million first dates (half of which lead to a second date) are organised through Tinder every week. He was proud of the fact that Tinder has led to a lot of happiness and particularly being responsible for “Tinder Babies”.

Thursday’s Highlights

I began Thursday in Code Summit and before the first speaker came on there was some great tunes playing with The Jam’s A Town Called Malice followed by Blondie’s Denis. Just goes to show that geeks like the best music.

On some recent projects Degree 53 have used Parse, the Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS). What this allows us to do is build complex backends to mobile apps for our clients without them having to worry about managing infrastructure or even a cloud service. That’s why I looked forward to hearing Parse’s founder and CTO, Kevin Lacker’s talk “JavaScript is eating the world”. For those of you that don’t know JavaScript is the programming language of the web. It was the first language I learned when I was 15 after I had learnt HTML and for many years it was little more than a way of making websites a little bit interactive. Things have changed with the advent of HTML5 and web applications. For traditional backend developers JavaScript can seem a bit of a Noddy language or even just plain wrong, however, Lacker stated two points:

  1. In the future all development will be done in JavaScript
  2. You’ll like it

We’ll see.

Netscaoe Navigator - now with JavaScript!

For those of you like me that have wanted to lose weight over the past couple of years then you’ll surely of tried the app, MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal lets you track what food you’re eating, count the calories and give you insight on where you could improve. MyFitnessPal’s CEO Michael Lee talked about how they have had over 100 million users in 10 years and that there’s an 88% success rate for people losing weight if they log their foods for 7 consecutive days. I must remember to start doing it again! He went on to tell us that most people stop using the app when they go on holiday/vacation and the best way they found to get them back was to try and engage them by using their pet’s name.

The highlight of the day for me was the interview with Rio Ferdinand, the former Man United defender (definitely a theme developing here). Rio talked about his experiences with social media and how it often led to him being fined whilst at United and now his career in the media.

Ian Prior, who was interviewing Rio asked him “Do you ever look at Ryan Giggs and think you’d like to switch places”. Rio quickly replied “Not at the moment”. I think we’d all agree with that.

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