Top 6 Takeaways from The Next Web, Europe’s Leading Tech Festival
The Next Web is widely recognized as a collection of sites devoted to the latest news in tech and innovation. But like many great things emerging from this space, its origins are actually rooted in a very different idea: a tech festival like no other. According to the company’s “About” page:
“In 2006, founders Boris and Patrick were looking for a tech event to showcase their new startup. When they couldn’t find one that checked all the boxes they decided to host their own.”
This week, 12,000 innovation enthusiasts descended on Amsterdam for The Next Web Conference at Westerpark, a sprawling greenspace redeployed to host workshops, talks, and the most promising start-up’s from around the globe. In our time moving among them, here are some of the top takeaways hot on the lips of those we met:
1. Tech Isn’t Just for Dudes
While it may be true that, generally speaking, men are disproportionately represented in professional fields focused on technology and web development, the gender balance among attendees of The Next Web made it clear that, even if the future of the industry isn’t exactly female, certainly we seem to be trending towards a more equitable representation.
2. VR Continues to Rule The Day
That is all.
3. Data is Useless if You’re Not Asking the Right Questions
The reams of data we now have access to, i.e. “Big Data,” has driven the kinds of conveniences many of us have come to rely on—from Netflix breaking open the binge-watch phenomena to Google revolutionizing the landscape of digital advertising. But as Melissa Rancourt, Academic Director of our Global Executive M.S. in Strategic Design and Management, described in a seminar on design thinking, all those numbers and statistics are useless if they’re not being deployed to actually solve user needs. Despite how analytic the data game might seem, combining it with creative thinking and processes is where its true power can be unleashed to drive new solutions.
4. We’re All Storytellers—Even (or, perhaps, especially) Coders
Over and over, it seemed that most of the folks we spoke to were working to perfect their story: the VC pitch, the value proposition—even quite literally, apps that help us tell stories. Once again, right brain seemed to constantly be meeting left to yield each start-up’s secret sauce in yielding (hoped for) success.
5. It’s Not About Having the Right Answer, It’s About Being Willing to Try New Things
Sitting around a table with six entrepreneurs, when asked about what keeps them up at night, my colleague and I heard variations on a similar theme over and over: “How do I...monetize; reach new markets; decide what’s next for my venture?”In our workshop on sustainable business models, led by Maurits Montanez, entrepreneur and member of our Global Executive M.S in Strategic Design and Management, the answer to this “How do I…?” question was deceptive simple: prototype, and test. In other words, don’t pressure yourself to know everything—try a few things quickly, and follow where the results take you.
6. It may just be that the engine of innovation—and success— is not answers, but continuous questioning.
We’ll explore more on this theme when we launch the first ever podcast, “Asking Out Loud with The New School’s Open Campus,” next month at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity and Innovation.