Crypto hits the main stage at Web Summit in front of record crowds

Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon has established itself as the spiritual home of one of the world’s largest technology events. Web Summit has called the Altice Arena home since 2016 and attracted a staggering 71,000 people in the latest edition of the conference.

The effect of the event on the city was palpable. An estimated 540,000 people call Portugal’s captivating, hilly capital home and the influx of attendees from around the globe made for a busy week on its smaller cobbled streets and busier roads.

The Ponte 25 de Abril bridge, connecting Lisbon to the municipality of Almada to the south.

It is not surprising that the event is a focal point for the city, which continues to establish itself as a tech hub in Europe. Web Summit continues to play a role to that end, with Lisbon rated as an Alpha-level global city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network.

Global industry leaders from a wide range of sectors were joined by prominent politicians, celebrities, actors and sportspeople that are at the intersection of tech and their respective spheres of influence. Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska delivered a keynote speech on opening night as the country continues to battle against Russia’s invasion.

Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska speaks during the opening night of Web Summit 2022. Credit: Jose Val Bal.

The cryptocurrency space was also top of mind on opening night as Binance founder and CEO Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao brought the ecosystem to the fore in front of a packed house at the Altice Arena.

CZ unpacked Binance’s $500 billion investment into Twitter, his long-term view of the growing value of cryptocurrencies and the growth of blockchain-powered Web3 capabilities. It was the first time a figure from the crypto space spoke during the event’s opening ceremony – signaling cryptocurrency and blockchain’s growing influence in the global technology ecosystem.

Cointelegraph’s Gareth Jenkinson alongside Binance CEO Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao at a community meet-up in Lisbon.

A dedicated Crypto section of the Web Summit app guided attendees to the various stages around the expansive Altice Arena grounds, with the stadium and five massive marquees housing exhibitors and presentations from the world’s foremost technology companies and emerging start-ups.

Related: The Sandbox co-founder explains how the metaverse has evolved for brands: Web Summit 2022

Some of the most prominent projects from the cryptocurrency and Web3 space were in attendance. Yuga Labs CEO Nicole Muniz was on hand to give an inside look at the explosion in popularity of the Bored Ape Yacht Club on the mainstage inside the Altice Arena:

“What we’ve done with BAYC and then later with CryptoPunks and MeeBits, is giving commercial IP rights so that exclusive ownership is something unique to this space that empowers consumers to turn into owners, which is a paradigm shift.”

Cointelegraph also took the stage alongside another prominent metaverse platform as COO and co-founder Sebastien Borget delved into the history and future of The Sandbox in a wide-ranging conversation on the Content Makers stage.

The Sandbox COO and co-founder Sebastien Borget on stage with Cointelegraph’s Gareth Jenkinson at Web Summit 2022.

Devin Finzer, CEO and co-founder of OpenSea, the world’s largest NFT marketplace, also weighed in on the popularity of NFTs and the importance of their influence on creator economies. Finzer stressed that NFTs are a generic tool attracting a different market segment away from people interested in traditional cryptocurrencies:

“These are people who are excited about art, collectibles and engaging with creators. NFTs, particularly in the creator economy, allow for creators to create digital items that can immediately be monetized and connected with a fan.”

Web3 and NFTs have already become well-ingrained in the world of sports. Cointelegraph sat down for a one-on-one interview with Jorge Urrutia del Pozo, Dapper Labs’ vice president of Football, to unpack their involvement with Spain’s LaLiga and the recently launched Golazos video collectible platform.

Having built the hugely popular NBA Top Shots platform, which produces NFTs of video highlights from America’s top basketball league, Dapper Labs is looking to drive further adoption of blockchain-powered Web3 collectibles through the world’s most loved sport:

“It is a really interesting opportunity for us to onboard tens of millions of people onto blockchain. That’s the way we see sports in general and football in particular. There is massive reach and the intensity of the fandom — it’s a big opportunity.”

Another major player bridging blockchain technology and sport featured prominently at Web Summit. CEO Alexandre Dreyfus took to the main stage inside the Altice Arena alongside former Italian footballer Alessandro Del Piero to unpack blockchain’s influence on fandom in modern sports. and Chilliz CEO Alexandre Dreyfus and Cointelegraph’s Gareth Jenkinson inside the speakers lounge at Web Summit 2022.

Cointelegraph caught up with Dreyfus after the panel discussion, who highlighted the main reason behind Socios’ creation of fan-powered tokens ecosystems to bring together teams and their supporters:

“The question was, what can you create that is both valuable for a fan and scalable for a team? We think two things matter for a fan. One, being recognised, and two, having a voice. That recognition, that social status, we thought we could power with tokens.”

Web3 gaming was another topic of interest on the Content Makers stage. Cointelegraph moderated another panel featuring Bozena Rezab of Gamee and William Quigley of WAX, who explored the promise and the difficulty of building Web3 games built on play-to-earn mechanics.

Gamee co-founder & CEO Bozena Rezab, WAX co-founder William Quigley and Cointelegraph’s Gareth Jenkinson during their panel – ‘Building a games company with a Web3 mindset’.

Rezab stressed that developers or studios building Web3 games should be more focused on creating good experiences and driving value and avoid adopting blockchain technology for novelty’s sake. The Gamee co-founder highlighted the importance of thinking about the distribution of value and how to best use the technology:

“It should not be tech-first thinking like ‘this is a cool technology and we’re going to use it’. It’s more about how I will use this to make value and create something people are excited about.”

Web Summit also provided the platform for projects to announce new offerings. Interlay used the conference to announce the launch of a suite of decentralized apps to power Bitcoin Decentralized Finance offerings allowing users to lend, trade, borrow against and earn yield on BTC holdings.

Cointelegraph’s editor-in-chief Kristina Lucrezia Cornèr hosted a number of panel discussions focused on the emergence of Web3 tech hubs around the world as well as a round table discussion on how to pitch startups and projects for coverage to top-tier journalists.

Cointelegraph’s editor-in-chief Kristina Lucrezia Cornèr on-stage at Web Summit in Lisbon.

Cointelegraph CEO Wes Kaplan also hit the stage to moderate a discussion around monetizing media and how news companies grapple with this complex topic. 

Web Summit well and truly brings the world of tech together for one of the biggest events on the global calendar. 2022’s conference proved that the cryptocurrency and blockchain ecosystem has established itself as a growing player in a space dominated by the likes of Google and Apple and will continue to do so as Web3 adoption gathers speed.