TNW Conference 2023 is a wrap! Here are some of the highlights

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TNW Conference 2023 is a wrap! Here are some of the highlights

Linnea Ahlgren

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Linnea Ahlgren

Linnea is the senior editor at TNW, having joined in April 2023. She has a background in international relations and covers clean and climat Linnea is the senior editor at TNW, having joined in April 2023. She has a background in international relations and covers clean and climate tech, AI and quantum computing. But first, coffee.

TNW Conference 2023 is a wrap! And what a couple of days it has been; a whirlwind of phenomenal insights, extraordinary events and connections across the entire tech ecosystem. 

We have talked about diversity and inclusion, why to design anything in the first place, the importance of building not only scaleups but “stayups,” how to secure funding from VCs and beyond, and, of course, there were plenty of discussions on AI. Although they were incredibly difficult to choose, here are some of the highlights from the past two days. 

The speakers and sessions

Nagin Cox, interplanetary storyteller and NASA engineer took to the main stage for “Ad Astra (to the stars): Before we send humans, we send robots.” This talk was, literally, out-of-this world perspective changing, and sums up the spirit of TNW’s theme of 2023 – Reclaim the Future – perfectly.

As Nagin, who has worked on a mind-blowing amount of NASA space exploration missions, quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson:  “Do nor go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

vision stage opening at TNW
TNW co-founder Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten and CEO Myrthe van der Erve during the opening of the conference

Among those finding themselves in uncharted territory is Viktoriia Itskovych, First Deputy CIO of Kyiv City. She shared her first-hand experience of transforming what was essentially a public transportation app into a digital lifeline for thousands of people across the Ukrainian capital. 

After the full-scale Russian invasion began in February 2022, Viktoriia and her team literally moved to Kyiv’s main data centre for a few weeks and worked on securing the infrastructure and building new features, from air raid alerts to evacuation schedules.

Speaking about the lessons learned, she noted how the COVID pandemic and the ongoing war have shown the importance of preparing for the scenarios that may seem totally impossible.

“What should we be preparing for next? An alien invasion,” she asked the audience. “You’re laughing, and I’m laughing too, but it doesn’t feel as impossible as it used to.”

During an illuminating Q&A session on the TNW Talks stage, Rana Gujral — CEO at Behavioural Signals delved deep into how advancements in cognitive AI and speech recognition software can help improve not only human-to-machine, but human-to-human communication as well. 

Rana also shed light on some of the most pressing questions around AI: should we pause its development? How do we ensure an ethical approach? And why should we focus on creating empathetic artificial intelligence?

David Heinemeier Hansson being interviewed on the vision stage by Christina Criddle.

Dr Tom Furness III — founder and chairman at Virtual Worlds also captured the audience at our TNW Talks stage with invaluable experience and insights.

The pioneering inventor, professor, and entrepreneur celebrated as the “grandfather” of virtual reality and augmented reality, dived deep into his journey in XR development and shared with the TNW audience how the transformative power of this technology can be harnessed for humanitarian applications, drive social impact, and improve our lives.

Lubomila Jordanova, Founder and CEO at carbon accounting platform Plan A, and Jamie Crummie, co-founder of sustainable food waste app Too Good To Go, took to the Growth Quarters staged in front of a packed audience. 

These two founders have built and scaled impactful businesses against all odds, and are now thriving as a result of their dedication. A key takeaway? “Stop wasting time! We need to act now on climate,” says Jordanova, invoking a standing ovation from the crowd.

The food 

Speaking of acting on climate change – while TNW is pioneering the next in tech, it is also pushing the next in sustainable catering. Once again, it took the bold decision to make all dining options locally-sourced, and vegetarian — from delicious flatbreads and temaki to kebabs and good ol’ french fries. 

People handing out food from food trucl

By removing meat from its catering options, TNW aims to drastically reduce CO2 emissions, and help save large amounts of fresh water and land. In addition to the meatless menu, only reuseable utensils, cups, plates, and packaging were used at the event, with no single-use plastics on sale.

 “This is a great thing to see,” said Chris Carmichael, head of corporate innovation at TUI Musement, on LinkedIn. “I have been to many many large conferences over the years, but TNW is the first I’ve been to that has put so much effort into sustainability.” 

The side events

During one of the conference’s most impactful side events, companies, corporates, and policy makers from all around the world came together to discuss the challenges and opportunities of DEI in the tech world. The ideas were structured around four main topics: legislation, translating DEI into action, maturing related initiatives, and setting up respective goals for organisations.

Our visitors could also meet up with several of the speakers for book signings, courtesy of Amsterdam’s own American Book Center.

The transportation 

For the first time ever, TNW arranged ferry shuttles from Amsterdam Centraal Station. Anyone who got up in time will have experienced the light morning breeze while journeying down the Ij, or the epic sailing-into-the-sunset vibes of the KPMG karaoke cruise on the evening of day one. 

TNW business floor from above

And, of course, there were all the fantastic startups coming together to make connections, funders and policymakers, all looking to build and support the ecosystems that will take tech into its next chapter – of which we are incredibly excited to be a part.

See you at TNW Conference 2024!

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