We invited our Awwwards judges Jasper Van Orden and Georgios Athanassiadis to attend The Next Web Europe Conference held in Amsterdam and they had the opportunity to experience it in person. Now they tell us what they saw there so we can all imagine we got to go too.
Day 1 by Jasper van Orden
On April 25th 2013 I represented Awwwards at The Next Web, a web-focussed event held in a former gasworks in Amsterdam.
The Next Web stage
Together with two thousand other attendees I was excited to see the Prince of Orange opening the event. He didn't answer whether he's an Android or iOS man, but at least 'Prince 3.0' took the time to show up a few days before his official royal coronation.
Founder of TNW (L) with the Prince of Orange (R)
Live illustrations by Esther Gons
After the opening we heard a mix of keynote speakers, pitches for startups and hackers competitions. And throughout the different rooms, an international mix of web-based startups presented their service or product at stands.
Andrew Blum, author of 'Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet' took us with his talk to the hardware side of the web and shared his poetic observations on the physical infrastructure we're all depending on. After that Leonard Brody took over with a more human talk. He showed how the internet is influencing school systems, currency and friendships. John Lunn from PayPal showed the combination of these two worlds. With his talk about e-commerce and off-course payment methods he showed the possibilities of making the experience in real life more interesting by implementing the right technology.
Andrew Blum showing his favorite internet hub
In between the talks there was plenty of room for sharing thoughts. To keep the conversation going, keynote speakers handed out drinks after their talks at the speakers' bar, a concept most people (including me!) could really appreciate. The coffee/ beer bars together with the food stands outside created a festival-like experience, with tech nerds wearing mostly fake Google Glasses. Except one!
Audience interested in Google Glasses
In the afternoon I had a short chat with Sandijs Ruluks, the founder of Froont. In a short demo he showed their prototyping tool for responsive websites. This in-browser tool seems to work pretty well and makes responsive web design accessible to all kinds of visual designers, even for those without any coding skills.
The talks I attended in the afternoon were focussed on the network economy and the trust startups have to create to make their services work well. Jimmy Maymann, CEO at The Huffington Post, presented his own business case and Loïc Le Meur, Co-founder of LeWeb, took us on a ride through the landscape of successful online services like AirBnB and Lyft. He finished with a quote from Rachel Botsman: "Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need". So I ran out of the room, bought a few beers and ended my day in the hackers' room where people loved their jobs.
Jimmy Maymann, CEO at The Huffington Post
Loïc Le Meur, Co-founder of LeWeb
Day 2, By Georgios Athanassiadis
Day two kicked off a little slower than the first day, and with a slightly more hungover crowd. Many of the big contenders at the conference threw free booze parties at some of the city clubs, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one with a banging headache in the big conference room for the second day of speakers..
First up on stage at on day two was tech freak Robert Scoble. He was literally covered in gadgets, including Google Glasses in the face, and an iPad mini in his vest pocket (didn't know there were vests with iPad pockets…). He kinda looked like a universal soldier… which had been fueled on beer instead of performance enhancing drugs.
Robert talked about the contextual web and how awesome the future is going to be in general. The main message was that as the information flow keeps speeding up and increasing. It becomes more important for us designers and technologists to build apps that filter out information, and serves the users the right information when they need it.
Andy was one of the few design-oriented speakers that I saw at the event. He talked about the importance of good design (both UX and aesthetics) and why tech startups should hire the best designers as early as possible, to boost the success of their project. He took up Google as one example of a tech giant who focused on only technology in the beginning, and now, several years later have to put huge design resources into washing away the "Google sucks at design" stamp they've had for quite some time (however, Google are really shaping up and is IMO leading the way in good design nowadays)
Kei walked up on stage wearing the Necomimi ears, which is cat ears that react depending on your mood. Pretty cool to see them live, as I honestly thought it was a fake product when I saw them the first time… Keis talk was basically about what's going on in Japan, and why they are a couple of years ahead of us in terms of mobile technology. The coolest thing he showed off was the Mico Headphones, which selects music based on your brain patterns.
Mark had an entertaining talk about why he thinks it's better to copy someone and make it better, than trying to be original all the time. He invited people up on stage and made everyone do the wave, fun and engaging session.
In between the talks I usually mingled around the booth area or hung out at the Start up rally presentations, where new startups got five minutes each to pitch their idea to a judge of venture capitalists and tech bloggers.
All in all I thought it was a good conference, the organisation was really good, the only thing I was a little bummed out about was that they only served chocolate muffins and fruit for breakfast…
Summing up, if you are thinking about attending the next session, you should be aware that it's not a web design conference. If you want to know about the latest design trends or look at cool WebGL experiments, this conference is not for you (the Business guy/Creative Director ratio was very one sided). TNW is a forum for entrepreneurs to meet and exchange valuable business contacts and for new startups to get exposure and show off their products.
The lectures were really inspiring, and even though I wasn't familiar with most of them before the conference, they all left me with a strong urge to quit the agency world and throw myself in the startup scene.
Thanks for a great conference!
Jasper is a Rotterdam based UX designer with a passion for cities and human behavior. Creative director at Rodesk △.
Georgios is co-founder and Project Manager at Your Majesty Amsterdam. Swede/Greek obsessed with digital excellence.