Web summit: how my startup that doesn’t exist was selected for ALPHA
This happened in 2016 but I never published it, so, here it goes.
I like to test things around me until they break, and figure out why they broke, and fix them. On a rainy day in Düsseldorf, when working for trivago, I started to see a lot of ads for web summit, the venue had changed to Lisbon, and, having lived in Lisbon a few years prior, I was extra curious to check it out better this year.
Out of curiosity, I signed up with my startup, a tinder for people looking for furniture, eg: “I am a man seeking a couch” and one could swipe right and left to find a match, and I decided to name it tinditure.io <- the .io domain means I’m a real startup.
The domain was never registered, and there was absolutely nothing on that page since the DNS couldn’t resolve a domain that doesn’t exist. Would they vet anything? Would they compare my idea/market/niche/app to others and make a decision, or are they simply looking at selling as many 1 metre booths as physically possible? Those were my hypothesis, and I was hopeful that my absolutely nothing wouldn’t be selected.
The first email included some expected scarcity and social proof selling tactics, these would make the next email seem amazing.
… A few days later
After a phone call with a sales clerk and being asked a bazillion questions(as a an early-stage startup person, I like to speak about myself), my idea was selected for Alpha! Amazing, this is what I call an MVP, domain isn’t even registered yet, nothing exists, and I’m already selected for web summit, what. a. day. #hustle
I proceed to get emails and phone calls every single day prompting me to buy the tickets until I make it clear that I won’t be joining.
But, this all happened in 2016, it’s different now.(I know this because in 2018 I applied again with the same idea, but the questions this time were more practical and about what was actually done). I guess that now they get enough actually real applicants, but there was a definitely a degree of #fakeittillyoumakeit involved.
It’s easy to act nonchalantly since I have nothing, but there are many entrepreneurs that after 2–3 years have as much as I had(nothing).
Were I truly super excited about my idea, and got a phone call praising my baby, I’d be over the moon with excitement for all the opportunities that are to come.
And if I did have an idea that I worked hard on for 1 or 2 years, I would have assumed that they checked it out and vetted it as worthy of attending, but no, I know for a fact nothing was checked because there was nothing to check, I wasn’t even asked if there was a typo in the domain, so nothing was checked. Someone with a 5-year project has as many chances of getting selected as absolutely nothing, this isn’t a selection…
So it got me wondering, what is web summit selling? Shovels? Is it an opportunity? Is it hype? Or a better question: what are early-stage startups looking for? Hype? Dreams? Validation? (and not necessarily from the market?)
Whatever it is is, web summit and similar events seem to sell it, and it seems that paying $3000 to get advertised to by trello and AWS(who also pay to be there) is worth it. Perhaps we’re playing the wrong game.