Pandemic forces Europe’s largest tech conference to go virtual

Web Summit, Europe’s biggest technology conference, will be held entirely online in December as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, becoming the latest major casualty of a pandemic which has hammered specialty writers this year.

The event, which moved from Dublin to the Portuguese capital in 2016, attracts around 70,000 participants every year, drawing speakers from leading global tech companies and start-ups, as well as politicians.

“Lisbon is still Web Summit’s home but with growing Covid-19 outbreaks across Europe, we have to think of what’s best for the people of Portugal and our attendees,” the conference’s founder Paddy Cosgrave said in a statement.

The decision, which came after the organiser said in June the event would take place in Lisbon as planned, followed talks with the Portuguese government and Lisbon’s mayor.

Web Summit will be able to host 100,000 attendees online on its own conference platform, the organiser said, adding around 800 speakers will join the event, including Zoom chief executive Eric Yuan and Captain America star Chris Evans.

Portugal, which has so far reported a total of 81,256 cases and 2,040 deaths from the coronavirus, much lower than in neighbouring Spain, began lifting its lockdown on 4 May.

However, like most other European countries, it has seen the number of Covid-19 infections rise again after a summer lull.

“The safest and most reasonable answer is to host Web Summit fully online in 2020,” Cosgrave said. “We look forward to welcoming attendees back to Lisbon in 2021.”