Web Summit cancels in-person Lisbon event amid surge in Covid cases

Organisers say decision to go online was taken in the interests of public health

Tech conference Web Summit has cancelled its annual physical event in Lisbon, opting for an online-only event in December as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Organisers said the decision had been taken in the interests of public health after discussions with the Portuguese government and Lisbon authorities. Up to 100,000 people are expected to attend the virtual conference, which was delayed from its usual November slot.

Web Summit will use its own conference platform for the event, which will take place between December 2nd and December 4th. About 800 speakers are set to take part, including Zoom founder Eric Yuan, European commissioner Margrethe Vestager, actor Chris Evans, scientist and conservationist Jane Goodall, and activist intellectual Cornel West. More than 500 companies have confirmed they will exhibit online, organisers said, including Cisco Systems, Siemens, UBS, Twilio and Cloudflare.

Doubts had emerged over whether a physical event would be held this year due to the coronavirus crisis, particularly after its organisers opted to hold its North American sister conference Collision remotely. However in June, Web Summit chief executive Paddy Cosgrave said the company was looking to have a hybrid event with some in-person events still taking place.


Portuguese restrictions

But although Portugal began lifting its pandemic restrictions on May 4th, it has seen a resurgence of cases in recent weeks. The country has reported more than 81,000 cases of the virus and 2,040 deaths.

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

The Web Summit conference was founded by Mr Cosgrave, Daire Hickey and David Kelly in Ireland in 2009, with fewer than 400 attendees at the inaugural gathering. Last year's event attracted 70,469 attendees in person.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist