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  • Writer's pictureMarina Planas

Web Summit 2023 Highlights: From AI Regulation to Circular Economy


Katrin Maikova, Product Marketing Manager & Marina Planas, CEO & Co-Founder of TheNTWK

Last week, Katrin and I, along with over 70,000 participants from 183 countries, attended the Web Summit in Portugal—one of the world's largest events in technological innovation. An interesting fact is that 43% of attendees were women, while 38% of speakers were women—the same as the number of women speakers at our TheNTWKSummit23. However, TheNTWK's goal is to achieve 50% next year! Also, Web Summit attracted 906 investors and 2608 startups.






✅ How AI Boosts Efficiency for SMEs on Marketplaces


Kuo Zhang, Alibaba.com's President, shared advancements in technology to help small and medium-sized businesses grow and simplify global trade through their B2B e-commerce platform. He highlighted that since the launch of AI technology called Smart Assistant on November 1st, it has already helped 2,000 sellers boost sales, improve product exposure by 20%, and increase conversion rates by 10%.


Kuo Zhang, President of Alibaba.com , 'The B-side story of e-commerce' session
  • The president of Alibaba.com presented how Smart Assistant helps to explain what users are looking for by sending prompts to guide them in filling out all the blanks for material, size, fabric, and generates pictures that enable suppliers to understand their preferences.

  • Kuo introduced VR showrooms that enable suppliers to showcase their product lines and factories, providing a first glimpse of the product's birthplace to build trust. They also launched live streaming to display products in detail and interact with potential business partners in real-time. Concerned about language barriers? The language recognition tool instantly converts spoken words into subtitles in the chosen language.

  • The Smart Assistance system can make suppliers' lives easier by optimizing product titles, generating images, and creating videos with commentary in 18 different languages.



✅ The Concentration of AI Power in the Hands of Tech Giants


President of Signal Meredith Whittaker highlighted that AI is not a new phenomenon, with the term coined in 1956, however, it has been applied to a heterogeneous set of technologies that, in many cases, bear little resemblance to the data and compute-centric systems that are now driving this latest wave of hype. The discussion touched on challenges within the AI industry, addressing issues such as the concentration of power among a few tech giants, the need for ethical considerations, and potential regulatory measures to ensure responsible AI development.


Meredith Whittaker, President of Signal, 'Is AI the real deal or all hype?' session
  • The AI industry is fundamentally concentrated, with a few major players. If you're an AI startup, you're more likely reskinning an API of a larger model that was created by one of these companies - Azure (Microsoft), AWS (Amazon), Google Cloud Platform (GCP). This concentration raises concerns about power asymmetries, the amount of authority we have ceded to a handful of corporations, ultimately driven by profit and growth, we need to attack that concentrated power.


  • Responding to the question about policy responses aimed at implementing guardrails, Meredith Whittaker shared:

“I thought it was nice that it didn't focus on quasi-religious myths of existential risks and a fantastical vision of AI that is not mapped to any clear evidence. That was fine, but the proof will be in the proof, and that's not what that is. Now, the AI Act is not new legislation; it has been ongoing for a number of years and continues to move forward but is not yet concretized.”

✅ Impact of AI Regulation on Innovation


Andrew McAfee, a Principal Research Scientist at MIT, argues that increased regulation in the field of AI will hinder innovation. According to McAfee, the EU AI Act, while emphasizing the need for more governance, results in additional expenses, more legal and engineering resources, and extended timelines.


Expressing skepticism about the upstream approach to AI governance, he aligns himself with "permissionless innovation." This philosophy advocates for a less restrictive environment, acknowledging that innovation is inherently unpredictable and decentralized. McAfee suggests that too much regulation could impede the dynamic and evolving nature of innovation in the AI sector.


Andrew McAfee, Principal Research Scientist at MIT, 'How do we regulate AI?' session

Albert Wenger, Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures, who spoke after McAfee, particularly objected to the categorization of people into two distinct teams: permissionless innovation vs. upstream governance, which he considered to be too much black-and-white thinking.


✅ Regulation and Platforms


Sacha Michaud, Co-Founder of Glovo, 'Innovate or regulate? When tech meets government' session

Sacha Michaud, Co-Founder of Glovo, at the session "Innovate or Regulate? When tech meets government", highlighted that tech companies go ahead of policies. It is important to connect tech companies with the government to understand the business model and its impact on the country.


Platforms such as Glovo tackle important points such as:

- Future of Work

- Digitalization of Small Business

- Algorithm order allocation






✅ Is Recycling Not Enough?


Sage Lenier, Founder & Climate Activist at Sustainable & Just Future, highlighted the importance of transitioning to a circular economy—an economy based on services, not goods, and one where resources cycle. Redesigning for circularity means building a system in which all our existing materials, whether consumer goods like tech and furniture or industrial materials like steel remain in use for as long as possible.


“Recycling or electric cars are not necessarily good; they're less bad than alternatives. If all we can do is be less bad, then we're still failing,”- shared Lenier.

'The world is on fire. Here's a realistic plan to save' session with Sage Lenier.


Networking Everywhere


Love when you go to an event and you meet people from your different communities:


1.TheNTWK Community


Not a single event takes place without meeting with NTWKers. This year, NTWKer Marta Agrech presented her startup - Oxie, the first European carbon emission management ecosystem.


"This year's edition was particularly inspiring due to its focus on positive impact. Numerous startups presented their solutions on carbon emissions management platforms, AI-powered waste management tools, gamification tactics used to avoid food waste, and, of course, circular platforms for fashion, industry, furniture, and many more. In the upcoming GreenTalks, we will have a chance to discuss and discover their differentiating approach to traditional businesses, so stay tuned!" - shared Marta Agrech.




2. UN-ECE Transformative Innovation Network Community

With Joao Mendes, Executive Board member @ Compete 2030

It was a pleasure to meet in person Joao Mendes, Executive Board member @ Compete 2030, an innovation & digital transition funding program.












3. Spanish Community

Chema Alonso CDO Telefónica and Marina Planas CEO & CoFounder TheNTWK
La French Tech Party, with Spanish Corporates Naturgy, Sacyr, Acciona













With Nelida Alonso, International Business Development Manager South Summit
















4. JunoHouse Community

With Boryana Chervilova
With Ester Serra

And Katrin was making new friends, maybe our future community members 😜















If you want to know about the latest digital business trends, especially in platforms and digital ecosystems, join our community. We believe in the power of networks and collaboration to solve problems and create value.


Authors: Article co-created by Katrin Maikova, Marina Planas & AI

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