Web Summit: Everything You Need To Know About ALPHA Program

Early November, Buddy for Sports team was present at one of the largest gatherings worldwide about technology and startups: the Web Summit, in Dublin.

According to the organization, in 5 years the number of people present at the Web Summit went from 400 to over 42.000, from 134 countries.

If you love technology you simply have to be there. But for any startup, being there is a very good way to showcase your products, develop networking and in some cases meet investors willing to bet on innovative concepts with a growth potential.

Startups in early stage have the possibility to make part of the Alpha program at the Web Summit and the benefits are more than obvious.

Applying For The ALPHA Program

The Alpha program is exclusively for early stage startups, which are selected by the organization after registration on the program.

The ALPHA startups are entitled to 4 tickets to the Summit. With a ticket, you can access Workshops, meetings with Mentors, and most important, have a stand to showcase their product. The stand is just for one of the days of the Summit (the organization later on informs which day it is).

And how much does it all cost? 1.950€

Apply for ALPHA

Apply to ALPHAIn order to apply, startups just need to register on the website. After getting the e-mail from the organization, you will have to fill some information about your company and product.

Skype

One of the phases of the selection process includes a 10-minute Skype interview with one of the responsible people for the ALPHA program. In this interview you need to specify when your company was formed, the company’s mission and vision, how you will get traction or sell your product, info on your company’s team members, and so on.

Our tip
Draft a set of questions/answers  and prepare yourself to answer them (in English). Although the organizers are nice people, you shouldn’t be caught with your guard down. Practice your English (the Dublin accent may be somewhat difficult to grasp at first impressions).

Decision

The organizer’s decision is communicated 1 week later, after the interview. You will receive an e-mail from Paddy Cosgrave (the Web Summit founder) titled “ALPHA: Our Decision”.
We believe Paddy raises the suspense to the highest level on the first few paragraphs of the e-mail. As we read it through it seems we have been turned down (we are always waiting to read the word “but”, as in “yours is an innovative concept…, but” 🙂 ). A few lines down, there comes the good news:

I really appreciate the time you took to speak with the ALPHA team last week. I know what it’s like starting a company. I also know for the ALPHA team it’s not an easy task selecting startups, but they do an incredible job. Based on their feedback, we’ve decided to select you to be part of the ALPHA class of 2015 at Web Summit.

From this point on, there’s a lot to be done!

A Lot Of Information To Process

From the moment the organizers communicate you their decision, you should start buying the ALPHA Package. Yes, it’s hard to introduce your credit card info… 1.950€ is quite a sum for an early stage startup, but after assessing all the pros and cons, we decided it was a go!

As mentioned previously, 4 tickets are available to each startup . It doesn’t mean you have to use them all. The organizers let you offer the extra tickets to someone you want to invite or exchange it for lodging or even sell the ticket(s). It’s up to you.

You should fill in the info on the people you know will be present at the Summit. In case any ticket is not needed for the time being, you can fill in the details later on (up to 2 weeks previous to the event).

WS Ticket

As soon as we register, the amount of information the organizers send you can be hard to manage. They send the e-mails only to one of the members of the startup (usually the first one to fill in the ticket’s details).

Our tip
The member  of your team who receives the e-mails should act as the focal point: he/she should also be charged with forwarding the e-mails to the rest of the team and reply to the e-mails. Due to the amount of information you will receive, this should be done by someone who is somewhat organized and is available to do it.

One of the most important e-mails is the one that includes the link to access the startup profile creation. Here you will be able to fill in the info on the startup such as its website, social networks, elevator pitch and so on.

Attention: this information will be used to create your stand’s Exhibition Board so pay attention to the details. Anything that you send wrong will be wrongly printed on the Exhibition Board. In case you need to correct anything you will have to pay an extra 150€ for a new Exhibition Board!

Our tip
Give top priority to the e-mails that include information on the registration for events (workshops, mentor hours, etc) as most of these are limited to a small number of registrations. As soon as you can, register, otherwise you’re out!

Do Your Homework!

Imagine 30.000 people gathered together. Yes, it’s the same thing as gathering all the people living in a city like Caldas da Rainha (Portugal) or Cloppenburg (in Niedersachsen, Germany), or Chatou (Yvelines, Île-de-France, in France)… All in a small plot of land in Dublin. There were startups as well as well-known companies, investors, media, and so on. In such a big event, you have to plan carefully what you want to do, who you want to meet, otherwise your presence will reveal itself fruitless.

If you plan to present your product to other companies, investors or simply to develop contacts with other startups, try to make those contacts previous to the Summit. The 3 days of the Summit are quite busy – those you want to contact are also busy and you may not have another chance of meeting them again.

The Web Summit has a mobile app  available for download one or two WebSummit Appweeks before the event takes place. This app allows you to access each and every profile of the startups that will attend the Summit, as well as the profile of the investors, media and companies’ representatives. The major advantage of this app is that you can send/receive messages to/from any of the attendees, making it easier to establish contacts. Yet, don’t rely only on this tool as a means to communicate with the other attendees.

For us, Buddy for Sports, the main purpose to attend the Summit was to establish contacts with other startups we considered important for an eventual partnership, as well as broadcast our app to the largest possible number of people (25% of our users are outside Portugal).

Our tip
Visit the Web Summit’s website and check who is going to be there. Use social networks (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, especially) to establish a first contact and schedule a meeting during the summit timeframe.

Arriving Dublin

Registration Desk

The registration process starts one day before the event and we advise you to register as soon as you can in order to avoid time being wasted in large queues on the first day of the Summit. This year the organizers had a stand at the airport  so that we could register as soon as we landed. You get a wrist band and a badge you should wear visibly whenever you’re at the Summit (it allows you to identify who you’re talking to).


Web Summit First Night Out

The Web Summit started on Monday night, November 2nd, with the notorious Pub Summits. You will receive an e-mail communication announcing which Pub you should visit. Networking starts there and then! Although some of you won’t remember who you´ve met the previous night! 🙂

Pub Summit

That same night, the Portuguese Embassy in Dublin and AICEP threw a reception for the Portuguese startups and companies attending the Web Summit .
This reception was extremely useful to establish contacts not only with other startups but also with larger companies, which may be useful for eventual partnerships.

Bear in mind you will need lots of business cards! There are a lot of people for you to meet!

Paddy Cosgrove was also at the reception and explained the reasons why Lisbon was chosen as the next capital to host this big event.

Rececção na Embaixada

Our tip
We don’t know whether such a reception to the Portuguese companies will happen in Lisbon in 2016. In case you need to choose between Pub Summits and this type of reception, choose the reception. The contacts established are bound to be more fruitful  than those at the Pubs. And don’t forget to carry your business cards!

At The Web Summit 

Be ready to walk… a lot! On our first day in Dublin we calculate we walked around 14 km’s!

As we arrived at the venue we got a bit lost: so much to see and so many things happening at the same time may be somewhat confusing.

The Web Summit app is a very good resource to access the Summit’s program and exchange messages with the other attendees. Yet, there was a major difficulty we encountered: the wi-fi signal was terrible at the venue and it simply made it impossible to use the app (or any other mobile app)! As it turned out, this also happened in 2014 and it was one of the major reasons why Paddy Cosgrove decided to move the Summit out of Dublin.

Talks

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The first thing to do is check which talks are on that day’s agenda and choose the most interesting ones. The existence of several stages makes it difficult to attend all the talks we want to.

Pitch

Pitch

We also advise you to see the Pitch Competitions, also taking place in yet different stages scattered through the venue. It is always interesting to watch the trends of the presentations and listen to the questions and remarks of the jury to the startups pitching In 2014 the Portuguese startup Codacy won the Pitch competition. Bravo!

Networking

Based on our previous analysis we started to develop some contacts with startups, which seemed interesting for us, business-wise. Take into consideration you only have 1 day at the stand, so take advantage of the exhibition day for networking.

Mentor Hours

Mentor Hour

On our second day we had a 20 minute session with our mentor. We had to register previously for this session in one of the e-mails the organizers sent us. You can also choose the theme of the session: financing, growth, traction, etc.

Our tip
Again and again you need planning! Check previously  the conferences you want to attend, the days those companies you want to contact are going to exhibit and organize your time accordingly.

The Buddy for Sports Stand

We were told by the organizers to exhibit on the 3rd day, November 5th.

The ALPHA program startup stand is 1x1m. You have to make the most of the insufficient space awarded to you. Be at the venue as soon as the doors open (09h00). You need some time to get to your stand and prepare it (approximately 20 minutes).

Amidst so many startups and stands, what can we do to stand out? This was the question we posed ourselves before getting to Dublin.

Due to weight constraints on the plane, there is no possibility to take large sized advertising material with you. But you can use the Exhibition Board and some space on each of its sides (as long as the neighbours don’t complain) to draw attention to your stand.

Buddy for Sports is a sporting app. So what else other than small sporting goods to draw attention to?  We even promoted a small mini-basket competition: the prize for the winner was a surprise Buddy for Sports package! Very effective  🙂

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Due to network problems we were unable to demo oura pp. So we previously taped small videos with our app in motion. On each side of the exhibition board we had a smartphone with the video running in loop. This was also a bet we won as it drew even further the attention of those passing by our stand allowing them to see our app working. 🙂

There is also the chance of attending the Web Summit without having a stand. All you need to do is to buy a ticket but in our opinion the stand is quite useful because it allows you to showcase your product to people whom you wouldn’t get the chance to meet otherwise.

Our tip
Be creative concerning the way your stand will stand out. It really makes a difference, Have some flyers for people to take home with them, so giveaways (you won’t spend much money altogether) and, we say it again, lots of business cards (we almos ran out of business cards on the exhibition day!)

Wrap Up

Attending the Web Summit exceeded Buddy for Sports’ expectations. We came from Dublin with precious contacts of both national and international startups, well-known companies and even some investors (business angels).

We broadcasted Buddy for Sports to the world (there were guys there from the US, India, even Dubai!) and in terms of experience acquired it proved very valuable to be present in one of the world’s largest events on technology and entrepreneurship.

Next year, and the two following years, Lisbon will host the Web Summit. The organizers will be put to a huge test (50.000 people are expected to attend) but we have no doubt it is going to be another great event and, of course, we will be there!

Our tip
Applications to the 2016 ALPHA Program are open already. Check the website and apply!

 


 

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