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Web Summit feels like an unmissable tech event, so we’ve been eager to go. This year, the complete Rollout leadership flew out to poetic Lisbon, and it was a great experience right from boarding the plane until sitting down at home and sifting through the memories and new contacts! Here’s a quick recap of what we learned about the current state of IT.

The hype around Web Summit is insane. More than 77,000 people visited the 4-day-long event, which is regarded as the tech event of the year by business leaders and media moguls as well.

Why Web Summit?

We wanted to use this opportunity to get to know more companies, especially startups, from all over the globe, who could need the kind of top developer talent Rollout provides. Currently, we feel that these businesses are well-suited to us because they can make use of our flexibility and remote-first culture.

Being a fully remote team, we are always looking for great activities and project opportunities where the team can get together. It was great to just dive deep into the event and meet up at night, sharing what we learned and forming strategies for the next day! (check out the recap of our San Francisco adventures where we wrote about how to approach events like this!)

The third part of our motivation was to just feel the vibes, to get together with the tech elite, and be part of the global discussion about where we are now and where things are heading.

Preparation for visiting a tech conference: find the Sweet Spot!

When you are trying to do some prep work for the event, Web Summit gets actually scary: hundreds of presenters and more than 70k people will be there!

There are also hundreds of company booths and most of them are there for only a single day!

So how the hell can you even decide where to go, who to talk to, and which company to check out?!

You could think that you either spend months ahead of the event rigorously going through the contact list and researching the ones that get your attention. Or you just go with the flow and hope for the best, right?

Well, there are some tools that can help you to make informed decisions. One way is looking for the sweet spot, something that has some sort of personal connection to you. You can do this while looking for work, or if you need business partners.

Like Tamás, our overseas HR business partner has some experience and connections working with NASA, so if a space tech startup comes along, he will say hi. Balázs, our CEO might be interested in stuff that is related to coding on a deeper level, or specifically related to iOS. Whereas Bálint, our sales lead, is a digital nomad private chef, so a gastronomy-related company will offer him opportunities to maybe exchange recipes, or chat about foodie stuff!

These ‘personalizations’ of your professional choices are helpful, but they still won’t be enough. Tamás was interested in HR Tech at this event, and every single day he has seen close to a hundred different booths, so he couldn’t go to all of them, which dreaded him with unbearable FOMO… and the next day, poof, all of them are gone, and you get a 100 more!

Startup Locator: One of many! Startups are gathered by their industry, and they have their spots for a limited time!

This is not Pokémon: you can’t catch ’em all! So you need to approach the event knowing that you can’t possibly experience it in its totality, just a specific viewpoint, and you just focus on getting the most out of that viewpoint.

The startup world is cautious but still optimistic

As we mentioned in the intro, although we have projects in every conceivable manner and scale (check out our case studies with mobile game developersa web3 IaaS protocol, or a bank front-end redesign), our cooperation with startups might be the smoothest because of the similarities in work philosophies, methods, the way we do business. We tried to spend as much time with startup founders and engineers as possible.

A typical booth: ‘Alpha’ means that this is an early stage startup. They usually can’t use remote developers at this point, but if you get to know them early, they might come looking for you when they scale up!

In general, we’ve felt that this year, business decisions tend to be slower, there is more caution in the air, companies are not confident about the way forward. We’ve been able to confirm this at Web Summit and get to know the situation in more detail.

Well, In short: the situation looks bleak, ladies and gentlemen, not gonna lie. There is no hiring freeze at most startups or companies we talked to, but all the investors expect to extend the runway. Fundraisings are pushed back from this quarter, by 3 to 6 months. Price sensitivity goes up in our key sectors.

When we chatted with similar developer hubs, many people seemed to look at Web Summit as a real investment and a key opportunity for getting new deals. It’s not like everyone is full of optimal project assignments, clients, and money right now, sales is becoming more important for the developer side again.

Of course, the community is encouraging. At the event, everyone is focusing on the positives, the pathways to success, the best practices, and interesting stories. Going back to startups, it’s important to note that their ecosystem is never perfectly in synch with the ‘regular’ parts of the economy. Startups have their own lifecycles, and milestones, like getting the product ready, landing the first deals and setting up the brand. These phases kind of overshadow the macro aspects, like current inflation rates, or how the job market looks like. Every coin has two sides. Tech layoffs? Great, easier hiring for us!

It was insane to see the hype around the booths of the Ukrainian companies for example. Most of the country is suffering from power outages due to the terrible things going on in there, but it’s not like they just sit back and hope for things to get better — they double down, go all out, and focus on the future. They literally don’t know what tomorrow brings, so they have nothing to lose! This means that when the war is finally over, they will already be at full speed. And this commitment is obviously being met with huge global attention, everyone is curious, and wants to be a part of this sad, but important story going on with the war.

Night Summit: Web Summit does not stop at sundown! You can enjoy networking in a more relaxed, casual environment with entertainment and food

Remote work changed the industry, now the industry is changing it back

How about the remote work culture? Remote is a key feature of Rollout — this is how we roll. We’re happy when we can be together, like at this event in Lisbon, but we need to be able to manage our day-to-day fully remotely.

We’ve seen a SINGLE booth that showed ‘REMOTE’ as a location.

Maybe the companies experience some burnout from remote work. It’s very possible.

2–3 years after the pandemic forced most companies to utilize remote work in some way, everyone can experience something we call the Pileup of Misunderstandings.

You need to organize everything in a remote culture, nothing is spontaneous. This means that there are next to zero opportunities for clearing the air, to just grab a drink and talk the day through. It’s harder to give clean feedback to someone. Project managers have a harder time feeling out who is struggling, and where are the chokepoints in capacity.

Companies start to become aware of the specific negatives of remote work, so they tune it back now to figure out how to tackle these challenges optimally — because obviously, you can’t just say no to remote in IT now. If you do so, you wave goodbye to the opportunity of sourcing talent globally or offering flexibility in work-life balance for your team members.

But we feel the interest growing for local projects from the IT professional side as well! A lot of developers feel like working from home and while traveling was fun, but they want the team spirit back, the office vibes back, at least a couple of days a week.

Balázs, our CEO, had conversations with two different founders who experienced some sort of remote work fraud, like, when developers take two full-time remote offers at once… and they limp through both projects, providing the bare minimum, just enough to not draw too much attention, and take the money for both. Some others accept side gigs while employed full-time, or build their own startups and write code for it.

Usually, business leaders can see that these team members are passive, their mindset is not there, and they forget more than the others… but you don’t necessarily catch them red-handed. As an employer, how can you defend yourself from this? Not easily. These things have always been commonplace in IT, but fully remote work makes it harder to control.

There are some measures though. Someone got fired because the startup tracked the data traffic between the IP of the developer and the server, and they saw that he is only connected to the database for 2–3 hours per day, while all the others have been on for 8. When he got asked about it, there was no answer. But the CEOs are not happy about tracking their own employees, a trusting environment would be what they aim for. They need to defend themselves though. So as you can see, the problems with remote work start to surface. Which is great! It gives us the opportunity to grow and develop further.

Have you been there as well? Or do you consider visiting a tech event, but are not sure how to make the best of it? Feel free to reach out and exchange some ideas!

Lisbon vibes…

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