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Web Summit cancels offline Lisbon event citing health fears

The online event will still take place

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Attendees gather on stage as confetti is dropped during the opening event at the Lisbon Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, on Monday, Nov. 6. 2017. Portugal is hoping to bolster its reputation as a startup hub in Europe at a time when political instability in Spain's Catalonia and the U.K.'s decision to exit the European Union are triggering growing interest in the southern European country. Photographer: Daniel Rodrigues/Bloomberg

Attendees gather on stage as confetti is dropped during the opening event at the Lisbon Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, on Monday, Nov. 6. 2017. Portugal is hoping to bolster its reputation as a startup hub in Europe at a time when political instability in Spain's Catalonia and the U.K.'s decision to exit the European Union are triggering growing interest in the southern European country. Photographer: Daniel Rodrigues/Bloomberg

Bloomberg

Attendees gather on stage as confetti is dropped during the opening event at the Lisbon Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, on Monday, Nov. 6. 2017. Portugal is hoping to bolster its reputation as a startup hub in Europe at a time when political instability in Spain's Catalonia and the U.K.'s decision to exit the European Union are triggering growing interest in the southern European country. Photographer: Daniel Rodrigues/Bloomberg

The Web Summit will not go ahead with a physical offline conference in Lisbon in December as planned, according to founder Paddy Cosgrave.

Mr Cosgrave, who is expecting 100,000 online attendees for the annual event, said that the decision was taken after discussions with Portuguese Authorities.

“Lisbon is still Web Summit’s home,” said Mr Cosgrave. “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 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 has a 10-year financial arrangement with Lisbon authorities to host conferences there, worth €11m per year to Mr Cosgrave’s company.

The deal, signed in 2018 to help boost Lisbon’s image as a high tech city, is designed to deliver tens of thousands of high tech executives, financiers and media to Lisbon each year for the tech event

The Web Summit did not disclose any financial implications of not hosting a physical event this year, or whether such considerations played a part in waiting until now to make the decision to cancel the offline event.

While the company is set to lose out on revenue from ever-larger exhibition stands by the world’s top web companies, it says that it has retained over 500 companies to “exhibit online” at the event. These companies include Cisco, Siemens, UBS, Twilio and Cloudflare. The company’s website also lists Google, Microsoft, Huawei, AWS, Volkswagen and Porsche as as partners.

Tickets for the online event are on sale at reduced prices compared to offline tickets.

High profile speakers confirmed include European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, Zoom founder Eric Yuan, Huawei chairman Guo Ping, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer and US actor Chris Evans.

It’s the second major online tech conference held this year by Paddy Cosgrave’s company, with Collision having taken place wholly online in June of this year.

The company’s other major international conference, Hong Kong-based Rise, was cancelled this year although pre-registration for a physical event in March 2021 is currently being promoted by the Web Summit with a $340 ticket price specified.

Almost all global tech conferences have been postponed, cancelled or moved online. Executives from US tech giants such as Microsoft have been told that they cannot travel to appear at conferencing events until summer 2021 at the earliest.

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