The Next Web

The Next Web Conference 2017 took place in Amsterdam towards the end of May, and I was lucky enough to attend this renowned tech conference.

Having been to primarily web-related conferences before I was excited to gain insight into the cutting edge technologies and innovations surrounding the greater global tech industry.


I was one of 15,000 attendees making it my biggest conference yet, and it really was scaled up! The venue was set-up in a park and the layout much like a large-scale outdoor festival.

There were 2 food courts, 3 main speaker stages, workshop areas, exhibitions and more…


The festival (ahem.. conference) layout



There’s so much to experience and content absorb at a conference of this scale that it’s impossible to review it all.

But here are a few of my favourite takeaways and aspects in no particular order


1 Accelerate Innovation – Adobe

Adobe designed an internal innovation Kickstarter program. This was in the form of a box containing:

  • A pre-loaded credit card (erasing budget restrictions)
  • A step by step instruction guide
  • Innovation tools
  • Coffee & Sweets vouchers

The program was very successful [add key fact], but instead of keeping it to themselves they open sourced it! So now companies/anyone can (and many major ones have) download the program and either adapt or use as is


2 AR & VR

Augmented & Virtual Reality has been causing a huge fuss lately but some believe it’s premature.

The guys at Blippar are working hard at developing a browser that you don’t browse in, but rather it overlays the world you see and can recognise objects, locations, and even thousands of celebrities and then provide you a web of information on what it finds in-front of you.

You can download it free onto your phone: and by using it you are helping them improve the app


3 Inter-city hyper-looping

The hyper loop idea may be familiar to you, but essentially it is super high-speed transportation achieved using magnetism, efficient design and an extensive vacuum chamber.

That all sounds very futuristic and distant, but the guys at Hardt are already building a full-scale testing facility in Europe and have a solid objective of the first inter-city hyper-loop by 2021.

In practical terms, hyper-loop transportation would allow you to travel between Amsterdam & Paris in around 30minutes!

Find out more:


4 The attention economy

Many speakers mentioned the attention economy referring to industries and companies competing to gain our attention. This is becoming increasingly difficult and competitive and companies are always coming up with innovative ways they can win us over.

In response, one of the speakers gave some tips to reduce the attention bombardment which I thought worthwhile sharing:


5 Rubbing shoulders with headliners

Similar to seeing headliners at a music festival, you are seeing the “headliners” of the tech industry. There is something fascinating about seeing VCs, co-founders, and CEOs of global applications you use on a day-to-day basis.

Some of the ones that made me feel like a groupie:

  • Ray Chan – co-founder/CEO 9Gag
  • Ryan Hoover – founder ProductHunt
  • Michael Pryor – CEO Trello
  • Jonathan Rochelle – Co-founder Google Drive
  • Pieter Omvlee – Founder/CEO Sketch
  • And many, many more.. full list: TNW 2017 Speakers


6 After hours sessions

This was something I thought was unique and worthwhile. After day 1 they hosted After-hours sessions which consisted of an intimate hour session around a table with 1 of 40 speakers, limited to 8 people at each table.

It’s not often you get a dedicated hour to meet one of the speakers and others at the conference. I really like the idea even if it was just having a casual conversation with those around the table over a beer. They were pre-booked and were booked out almost instantly!


Grand opening theatrics



Room for improvement

Although there were many great aspects of TNW 2017 I did feel there were two main areas where they fell short.

  • Bang for your buck
  • The after-party


1 Very costly

The cost of a ticket was between €495-€700 (depending on timing). This is by far the most expensive conference I have attended and it did not feel justified.

Yes, the venue was great, it was of high-quality, and it was well organised. However, we received no swag-bags or freebies of any kind (except the beer at After Hours, yay €3!). Everything had to be bought at the conference (and related events) from food to drinks.

With a stellar list of sponsors you would expect many of the venue/running costs to be subsidised, and I couldn’t help but feel they were milking it.


2 Disappointing after-party

Amsterdam is known for its nightlife and party scene and expectations were high for the after-party of such a renowned conference.

Admittedly I got there late (although 12 am is not late in Amsterdam), but, after struggling for 20min with coat-check, we arrived at a cramped and stuffy room in the TQ building. This is the offices of TNW, and it was just that. They had converted their kitchen into a bar, had music blaring in a room not made for acoustics, and operated a random token system for drinks. We left after eating some popcorn.

It felt like the only people enjoying the after-party were the TNW team getting hammered on all their newly made money.


TNW 2017 was undoubtedly successful. It provided insight into the landscape of the current global tech industry. The speakers and attendees I interacted with were high-quality and genuine, and if I find myself close-by I would consider going again.

However, the cost and lack of justification definitely taints the experience so I may just wait for the recorded sessions next time 🙂


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Author: Chris Muller

Chris Muller is a self-starter who is passionate about tech, travel, learning and going off the beaten track. Co-founding Pango (a tech-focussed business accelerator) and his role as CTO for (an online education company) fuel these passions. Otherwise you’ll find him running in the mountains, practicing yoga or sharing a beer with friends.

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