Europe’s biggest tech conference kicks off today in Lisbon, welcoming tens of thousands of the great and good from the tech world, but fintech leaders and major sponsors will be missing, following the controversial comments made by its founder.
A post from the Web Summit Twitter/X account yesterday proclaims:
— Web Summit (@WebSummit) November 12, 2023
According to the Web Summit website, the 2023 edition counts 800+ speakers and 900+ investors — figures notably lower than the 1,050 speakers and 1,081 investors the organisation touted in 2022.
But leaders from fintechs including Monzo and Stripe, who were scheduled to speak, are missing from this year’s lineup.
Major sponsors including Google, Meta, Amazon, and Intel have also decided not to attend this year’s conference following founder Paddy Cosgrave’s controversial comments over the Israel/ Palestine conflict.
Monzo CEO TS Anil is no longer on the speaker’s agenda, neither is Matthias Knecht, the CEO of German B2B BNPL firm Billie, who confirmed Knecht would not now be attending.
Long-time sponsor Stripe is also missing with executives Will Gaybrick and Jeff Titterton pulled from the speaking lineup at the event which runs from November 13 to 16.
The founder of German tech rental Unicorn Grover Michael Cassau is also not attending.
In the past few days, the event took a further blow when German economy minister Robert Habeck cancelled a planned trip to Portugal that was to include attending the Web Summit.
Web Summit is now headed up by new CEO Katherine Maher, the former Wikimedia Foundation, who was hastily appointed last month to replace Cosgrave.
“We went through a transition. We need to focus on the mission and bring those partners in.”
Maher does not have shares in Web Summit, with the majority shareholder being Cosgrave, with an 81 percent shareholding.
Cosgrave is in a legal dispute with the other two shareholders in Web Summit. None of the shareholders have a seat on the Web Summit board.
Maher told Axios:
“The shareholders who do not sit on the board are not in charge of the CEO. The board is independent.”
Despite the setback of major supporters pulling the plug, Web Summit says that multiple partners who had cancelled or were considering their attendance, have now confirmed their attendance. But organisers didn’t give further details.
It also said attending the conference would be government delegations from more than 50 countries including the UK, Germany, and Japan while the Ukrainian Tech Ecosystem has also publicly supported the event and will be showcasing at Web Summit in Lisbon.
On social media today, attendees flashed the passes and talked about making “amazing connections” while others said they were looking to “discover new talent”.
Lead image: Photo by Dan Taylor