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The Next Web 2016 – A worthwhile experience for entrepreneurs

The convention offered an impressive main stage

The convention offered an impressive main stage

Ten years ago two Dutch entrepreneurs launched a small tech conference in the heart of their home country: Amsterdam. Their goal wasn’t to grow the event into the next big thing, but to conveniently launch their own new company.  The conference attracted about 250 attendees. Today the startup they launched is no more, but the conference stands taller than ever in the European tech community.

Twenty thousand. 20.000. That’s the number of attendees for the 2016 edition of The Next Web. Ten years after the initial small conference in Amsterdam, Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten and Patrick de Laive grew their platform that was meant to launch their initial company inronically into a much bigger success. Next to a conference, there is a lively news blog and a series of other events. But the conference (still set in Amsterdam) remains the main focus of the two founders. So among the 20.000 guests for the 2016 edition, The CoFoundry was represented at The Next Web, to find out what all the fuzz is about.

Is it worth your time?

There was a constant summer festival vibe at the event

There was a constant summer festival vibe at the event

Let’s anwser one simple question about The Next Web. Should you –as an entrepreneur- visit the conference? The short anwser definetely is yes, at least once in your career. Even though the event isn’t the best place to network, there is a lot to take away from these two days in the heart of Holland. Not only is the event extremely well organised, there also are a lot of relevant speakers to check out.

This year’s edition featured founders of booming companies like Booking.com and the internet’s favourite .gif database Giphy. Next to that a new type of entrepreneurs –aka. internet personalities- like Gary Vaynerchuck and Casey Neistat held some interesting talks. The stuff these entrepreneurs talk about prove to be very relevant and interesting for everyone that is remotely involved in entrepreneurship and building a business.

Focus on profit

The talk from marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuck especially will stick with us for a long time. The American entrepreneur without a doubt offered the most interesting performance on the massive main stage, featuring his classic no slides, just words presentation style. The Vayner Media founder shed light on the way he thinks about entrepreneurship, pressing on the fact that everyone has their own individual talent and style and should always –no matter what- stick to that. He also believes that the outburst of big financial injections can’t go on forever and that startup founders have to focus on making their product profitable, rather than something that constantly needs more funding. An opinion that resonates with The CoFoundry’s vision and approach.

Internet personality Casey Neistat attracted a rather enthousiast crowd

Internet personality Casey Neistat attracted a rather enthousiast crowd

The Next Web also offers a good look at the bigger picture. It was the talk of Ethan Zuckermann (director of the MIT Center for Civic Media) that proved to be spectacularly eye-opening. Zuckermann explained how the internet offers us the chance to gain more knowledge about what’s going on in the world. Still we end up surrounding ourselves with like-minded people and search for relevant individuals in our own vicinity, resulting in a disjointed worldview that kind of shows you the world in a way that you like to see it. An evolution that he tries to fight through his Global Voices initiative.

The not so good

Next to the numerous talks and series of workshops, The Next Web featured a series of startup booths, meant for entrepreneurs to showcase their products. At these booths you could find a lot of Dutch startups, some international and even a few Belgian companies like Teamleader, Taglayer and Parcify. Even Startups.be was there with a delegation of Belgian companies. In our humble opinion, the true conference format that seeps through at those startup booths, was the least well managed part of the event. The booths were a part of the many tents that formed the summer festival-like format of The Next Web. You had to pass through them if you wanted to cross the terrain to the several talks that were planned, but that only slowed the progress and became more of an annoyance than a successful move. And mainly, it crushed the chance of some good networking opportunities for those who were actually looking to meet interesting people, which seems to make the booths a bit counterproductive.

But in the end that was only a small annoyance that doesn’t break the further interesting conference experience. We honestly don’t think that The Next Web is a conference that you have to attend every year, but from time to time, an event of this scale can prove to be insightful. Especialy for Belgian entrepreneurs –who don’t get a lot of really groundbreaking events in their homecountry- the ticket of several hundreds of euros will be a good investement.