It was another day of insight and excitement at Web Summit 2017 in Lisbon, with presenters digging deep to answer pressing questions on a broad array of topics. AI and human augmentation continued to create buzz, along with the impact of tech on individuals, society and the planet.
Robots debate AI-human evolution
Web Summit favourite Sophia, Chief Humanoid at Hanson Robotics, commanded Centre Stage again this year. She was joined by fellow robot Professor Einstein and her human friend Ben Goertzel, Hanson Robotics’ Chief Scientist, to discuss how robots and humans could evolve together. Sophia was optimistic that robots could free humans from the drudgery of work to focus on other pursuits, but Prof. Einstein warned of problems when robots become smart enough to assume “human values.” He suggested that “humanity has to cure itself” to ensure that “its creations remain healthy.”
Sophia, who became a citizen of Saudi Arabia last week as the first robot to gain citizenship of a country, introduced Hanson Robotics’ new project: SingularityNET. A decentralized blockchain-based open market for AI, SingularityNET creates a platform for generalized artificial general intelligence that Ben hopes will help advance AI and ensure it is developed in a way that benefits humanity.
Raising billions for bike sharing
What does it take to raise a billion dollars in funding? There’s no short-cut, warns Joe Xia, the co-founder of dockless bike-sharing start-up MoBike, which struggled to get series B financing just 18 months ago. With big goals to become a global company, it designed its own bikes and put them on the streets of cities around China. This let it acquire users offline and transfer them online, where they promoted MoBike as a cool part of a modern urban lifestyle on social media. Now with 8 million bikes worldwide, MoBike uses its platform to manage the fleet more efficiently to keep costs down and profits up.
Watch the replay: http://bit.ly/2AjBsIN
ICOs: passionate discussion about new way to raise funds
Investors Joseph Lubin, Rebecca Lynn and Tim Draper variously described an initial coin offering (ICO) as a type of utility token launch; a new way to raise funds without incurring debt or giving away equity; and a radical new way of thinking that will be bigger than the Internet and allow people to be involved in creating movements rather than owning a share of a company.
An ICO token could be a copyright on a virtual music platform, allowing artists to generate value from their work, or the right to quote for medical care on a free-to-consumers site for doctors. In this model, individuals and businesses work within open platforms and help the platform grow.
Essentially a form of crowdfunding that relies on blockchain, ICO is a global phenomenon and has the potential to be huge. The panellists wondered whether Chinese entrepreneurs might leave China, which has outlawed ICO, for more open markets where ICOs are regulated but allowed. They cautioned investors to investigate the lifecycle of the token, its value and the people behind it.
Watch the replay: http://bit.ly/2iEpxOt
AutoTech: the future of air mobility
With the convergence of automation, electrification, connectivity and new materials, the time is finally right for the ‘flying car’ to take off, with start-ups worldwide creating new types of air vehicles, from to jet packs to space rockets. Volocopter’s pilotless flying taxis have already flown in tests in Dubai city, while Aeromobil’s racers should be ready to go from road to air by 2020.
Marketing: creativity and growth
Marketing influencers John Hegarty, Bob Greenberg and Susan Credle shared a view that the marketing and ad industry is set for a return to the fundamentals. Few now understand the importance of persuasion before promotion or the basics of long-term brand building. While we have a multitude of platforms today, brands still need a brilliant idea to sustain the message across all of these different channels. These experts believe the creative voice is undervalued and that the industry needs more diversity.
Watch the replay: http://bit.ly/2hkMtpl
Growth Summit celebrates disrupters
A hugely popular new addition to the Web Summit this year is Growth Summit. It brings some 250 high-flying companies from all over the world to talk about how they are disrupting industries and staying on track in the midst of incredibly fast growth. Among the stand-outs today were:
- Flixel, a Toronto-based start-up that gives photographers, videographers and digital marketers the tools to tell mesmerizing stories using the new visual medium of cinemagraphs
- ai, which uses AI, machine learning and talented engineers to build clients’ apps, features or products for a guaranteed flat fee
- Curve, the world’s first connected finance platform that lets mobile users simplify money management by combining all their debit and credit cards into one
- Hooch, a New York-based service that gives subscribers their ‘first drink free’ at upmarket bars and other venues, charging a small monthly fee for free daily cocktails
Elsewhere at the Summit:
- Paddy Cosgrave rang the Nasdaq opening bell from centre stage in Lisbon to signal the beginning of trading for the business world.
- This year’s on-stage PITCH competition, a live battle of the world’s best early-stage startups, kicked off with around 100 teams going head-to-head.
- Paris was named the 2017 European Capital of Innovation (iCapital) by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. Tallinn (Estonia) and Tel Aviv (Israel) were selected as runners-up, and all ten finalists were named as the first ambassadors of innovative cities in a new iCapital alumni network.
Web Summit continues tomorrow with a focus on diversity, trust and building a culture of success.