Why should a manufacturing company go to a tech event? Notes from Web Summit

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When a partner told me about the Alpha Program, on the Web Summit 2019, I was a bit curious. “We are from the industry sector, our software is for the Packaging Industry…uh, let’s think”. But then we applied, passed for such a huge process where only 1 in 10 companies get chosen and were approved. So, it was official. PackIOT was in!

Now, a few days after the end of Web Summit, we are so glad that we opened our minds to participate in the most important technology event in the world. So, we are sharing some thoughts from our experience with people from the industry sector.

First of all, we need to be aware of what’s Web Summit. Forbes has called it “the best technology conference on the planet”; The New York Times claimed that it assembles “a grand conclave of the tech industry’s high priests.” In 2019 more than 70 thousand participants from 163 countries, and more than 2 thousand startups came to Lisbon in search of an opportunity to share their ideas and grow their business. Huge, right?

In general terms, we still realize that the industry and the technology ecosystem are far apart. Concepts of innovation, cloud, agile methodologies are not yet part of the daily routine of managers and employees of most manufacturing companies. And participating in an event like this meant (and means) an opportunity to bring these two worlds together.

Of course, global giants have realized that getting closer to technology is a never-ending path. We’ve had high-level conversations with impact professionals from Siemens and Cisco, for example, who are on the lookout for every move in IoT, industry 4.0, and artificial intelligence.
Porsche and Volkswagen Group were also there, with a strong presence, large spaces and causing huge impact at the Web Summit.
This was one more important learning: large corporations end up becoming “lighter” in this type of event. Executives and employees dive into conversations about innovation and the future, going from the usual suits/tie/ badge perspective at industry events. They have realized that they have to stay closer to “new-age” tech companies: they have the power, the brand, and the reach but lack speed and flexibility, that new-comers provide and are key for the first steps of manufacturing companies in the Industrial IoT world.

New ParaI came from the machine-making industry, my background is engineering, so I got used to going to trade fairs in this sector over the course of my career. What impressed me most about the Web Summit was that the conversations were open, without that “industry secret” approach. Conversations were really generous, sharing to learn and all gain from that.

We had participated in an international industry event, the K-Show in Düsseldorf, a few weeks earlier, and the difference was striking. I really highlight this ability of people to talk openly about a variety of subjects in tech conferences, without the posture of “do you want to steal my idea?” or “what is in it for me” approach. It was important to have this experience with PackIOT.
We think we fulfilled our role of being an industry representative at a technology event. As an IoT company, we increasingly want to bridge the gap between manufacturing and technological developments. Many investors and representatives of manufacturing companies were also there looking for this bridge and we heard several times the sentence: how nice to see someone from the industry around here.
I’d really like to encourage people from the manufacturing industry to participate in such new economy/tech events, although the ROI may not be so obvious in the first moment. Just go there and start a conversation. I am sure it will pay off!