Takeaways from TNW Conference Europe 2016

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I had a chance to attend The Next Web Conference Europe 2016 in Amsterdam this year. Here are some takeaways.


TNW is more like a festival, where you go to drink beer, party and listen to live bands. But it’s also a great opportunity to meet like-minded people, potential clients, startups and see some epic talks.

This year’s TNW Conference attracted around 20,000 attendees over the course of 2 days, May 26–27. There were 5 stages, 150 speakers and 8 tracks of content.

Day One

I arrived at the Amsterdam’s Westergasfabriek (beautiful city park with historic factory buildings), by Tram 10 at around 9:15 am. There was a crowd of people getting their tickets and wristbands and checking out the Tesla Model X, which was shining near the entrance.


The Conference was opened by 11 year old Josephine, who is going to be our future customer, competitor, biggest fan or the person who will fix the world’s problems… She also reminded us that we were there not just to get inspired and do the business but we were there to make the world a better place.

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Boris, the co-founder of TNW, then told a story how they, together with Patrick, started this annual conference 11 years ago. With only 250 attendees and no assistants they had to do everything themselves, including the cleaning. This year’s event was almost 100x bigger. It just reminds me one more time that we all need to launch small and don’t be embarrassed.

“Unbelievable… this is f*cking awesome”

Gary Vaynerchuk started his inspiring talk with this phrase. He’s a business expert and pioneer in social media-focused marketing, an investor (co-founded VaynerRSE, a $25M angel fund), and took his family wine business from a $3M to a $60M business in just five years. To be honest, I’ve never heard of him before but in my opinion he gave one of the best talks that day.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Three questions to ask

There was a great talk by Julie Zhuo, VP of Product Design at Facebook. She talked about recently introduced new features of Facebook (reactions, live video and group discovery). And she also shared a secret. These are three questions the design team at Facebook ask themselves while developing new features:

  • What people problem are we trying to solve?
  • How do we know this is a real problem?
  • How will we know if we’ve solved this problem?

Elon Musk’s Hyperloop

I’m a big fan of Elon Musk and the idea of making the world a better place. Hyperloop is one of these ideas. Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop, talked about building a new kind of transportation. Some of the cool facts about this new technology:

  • Speed of up to 1200 km/h
  • It’s completely green
  • It’s crowdsourced
  • Hyperloop occupies no space virtually. The whole system will be built on pylons, which do not need much space.

The Afterparty

I met a lot of people during the first day. We talked about the conference and technology, exchanged ideas and business cards and had an amazing time at the afterparty, which took place at WeWork Metropool, Amsterdam.

Me with Igor Susmelj from SIX Group Ltd. (on the right).

Day Two

Day 2 of TNW Conference started with a minor hangover, but this is part of the conference, right?

Technology is neither good nor bad: you are

Peter Sunde, Co-founder of The Pirate Bay, told some mind-blowing stories about “The galaxy’s most resilient BitTorrent site”.

Peter Sunde, Co-founder of The Pirate Bay

Data is everything or “Ugly” Booking.com

Gillian Tans, CEO of Booking.com says that the design of Booking.com is made based on statistics on what users want, rather than opinions. This reminded me Steve Huffman’s interview with Boris about Reddit.

Design is the DNA of your product

Andy Budd, a UX designer and partner at Clearleft, believes that the only unique selling point of your product is it’s user experience and brand. Because good product design is incredibly difficult to achieve and even harder to replicate, whereas, product features can be easily replicated.

Does AI make Apps Evil?

Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon.com demystifies Machine Learning and explains what it is and how it can be used by everyone to build smarter applications.

David Allen, Getting Things Done

David shared his assessment of the state of affairs in personal productivity tools and his vision about what it could and should be in the future.

Start small and tackle one thing at a time

TNW CEO Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten and Basecamp Founder Jason Fried dived into how they manage their companies and what worked best for a happy and productive team, as well as personal happiness and productivity.

When Boris asked how they came up with the pricing model at Basecamp, Jason honestly replied that they pulled it out of the ass. He called it #asspricing.

Thanks for taking the time and reading my thoughts.

Hi, I'm Renat 👋


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