Making people smile at WebSummit

WebSummit is one of the World’s largest internet and technology conferences, held every year in Lisbon, Portugal. It’s attended by the likes of Amazon, Google, Microsoft, along with hundreds of web companies, apps, and startups looking to connect with partners and investors throughout the 4 day event.


This year saw over 70,000 attendees from across the world, and Paperwrk was offered a place on the competitive PITCH series along with 170 other startups, with the three finalists getting to pitch on centre stage on the final day.

In addition, Paperwrk would hold a stand in one of the exhibition halls on the third day, giving us the opportunity to speak with attendees directly. This meant coming up with a way to engage with the vast numbers of people passing by the stand throughout the day. Whilst Paperwrk has a strong visual identity, standing out from other startups was something we knew would be important. Given that hugely successful startups are often referred to as ‘unicorns’, and given the theme of the conference being strongly slanted towards enabling startup success, it seemed a strong enough concept to develop further.

Preparation is everything

Designing a unicorn that reflected the angular cues from the Paperwrk logo, along with our established brand colours, resulted in a fun and lighthearted new brand asset that could be used on literature, social media, branded clothing, and giveaways at the show. Neil and I are both huge Lego fans, so also ‘branded’ some Lego unicorn minifigures to take along.

Obligatory travel shots

Most of our first day in Lisbon was left free, with the conference kicking off that evening, so we took the opportunity to visit the Castelo de S Jorge, take in some spectacular views overlooking the city, and of course, take a few shots of our Paperwrk unicorns enjoying the Lisbon sun, before heading to the Altice Arena to hear the opening keynote speech from Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World-Wide-Web.

Exploring the Castelo de S. Jorge before heading to the arena for the keynote

An early start on the first full day of WebSummit saw Neil take part in the competitive PITCH event alongside 4 other startups in the group, in front of the crowd (surprisingly large considering how early it was), and the judging panel. The presentation was strong, but the group winner was one of the other competitors pitching from a completely different sector, which seemed a little illogical, but those were the rules. The rest of the day was spent visiting some of the other exhibitors, battling the crowds of people packed into the 4 exhibition halls, and attending some of the many talks from the industry leaders. My personal highlight of which was from Marek Reichman, design lead at Aston Martin.

Neil on-stage at the PITCH presentation, and rather a lot of people, everywhere

The second day involved meetings with investors and partners. I had a little time on this day to head back early and explore a bit more of Lisbon itself, something I’d been looking forward to since we arrived. I’ve not travelled as much as I’d have liked to, so getting to experience a different culture and see more of the city was really enjoyable. Parts of it felt like being in a movie, and the colours, textures, and even the graffiti (of which there was a LOT) was a lot of fun.

Exploring Lisbon

Our day on the stand was, quite frankly, insane. Neil had arrived early to setup the stand and display our literature, unicorn stickers, and the laptop demo. For the next 6 or 7 hours there was near constant footfall, handing out stickers, gaining people’s attention, and talking through the features of Paperwrk and how it was designed to help freelancers and contractors, which turned out to be a large percentage of attendees. It was at this point I realised what an impact the unicorn design had on people, with pretty much everyone smiling as soon as they saw it, and most asking if they could have more than one sticker. Good job we had plenty! And whilst I’m far more of a designer than I am a talker, it was really interesting to speak with such a wide variety of people throughout the day.

It was also the first chance I’d had to meet with our Portuguese development partners, a team headed by Pedro and Ricardo. They were kind enough to help us on the stand, and take Neil and me to a charming little seafood restaurant across the river for dinner that evening. They’re both genuinely warm and charismatic people, and it was lovely to spend time getting to know them both.

A day of talking with many, many people

It’s fair to say I was exhausted by the final day and although looking forward to getting home and relaxing, I was sad the week was coming to the end and we’d be saying goodbye to Portugal. We had a final few meetings at the conference venue with potential investors, and I took a couple of hours in one of the ‘picnic’ areas to catch up on some emails and client work, before heading back to the airport for the flight home.

Goodbye, Lisbon

Overall, my experience of WebSummit was incredibly positive. Over the course of the 4 days I’d gone from being initially quite overwhelmed, to very proud of the amount of people we managed to speak to, the positive feedback we got about Paperwrk, and how the brand was able to provide a strong foundation to the service, capturing the interest of so many people in an environment where so much was going on, it would have been easy to fade into the background.

“WebSummit was an unexpected surprised for the both of us. We had no real preconceptions of the scale of the event, but certainly saw it as an opportunity to speak to other businesses across Europe. I really enjoyed the city and its sights, and found the locals warm and friendly. I hope that we will be attending next year and seeing what Lisbon has to offer then.”


Read more about my work with Paperwrk here.

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