Embracing Fear and Taking Care of Yourself

Nick Procopiou, Senior Front End Developer, at BCG Digital Ventures in London, shares his personal and professional lessons from Web Summit.

The beginning of November delivered a lot of firsts. It was the first time I’d attended Web Summit, the first time I’d been to a technology event and the first time I’d been to Dublin.

Before I got to Web Summit — I was given two pieces of advice. Plan what you want to see and wear comfortable shoes. I followed both pieces of wisdom and it meant I didn’t miss the best presentations and I was comfortable walking over 15,000 steps (around seven miles) each day.

There was so much to take in from Web Summit, so I pulled out the top five things I learnt.

1) Feel the fear and do it anyway.

We attended talks and Q&A sessions featuring Stewart Butterfield (Slack), Michael Dell (Dell), Mike Butcher (TechCrunch), Uri Levine (FeeX), Mike Krieger (Co-founder of Instagram), Edwin van der Sar (Ex Man Utd goalkeeper), father and son Ankur and Naveen Jain and our very own Walter Delph (Partner and MD of BCG DV). The main message that came out from all of these high profile and successful speakers was that failure is not when something doesn’t work, but in fact when something doesn’t work and you give up. A true entrepreneur should not let fear of failure stop them.

2) To retain users, stop adding features.

William LeGate (Co-Founder of Ponder) gave us some quick tips for retaining users. The majority of Williams’ tips were things we already know and are doing well: Onboarding new users, asking for permissions the correct way (in mobile apps) and having killer UX. The most surprising tip, and the one I was most pleased to hear was to stop adding features when you have a well functioning product. Nothing annoys users more than features being added all the time. Something that I have found myself saying on many occasions.

3) Brace yourself; Javascript is going to eat the world!

The first talk on day three (Code Summit) was by Kevin Lacker (Co-Founder of Parse), which offers cloud based infrastructure to remove the heavy lifting from the implementation of back-ends for web and mobile apps. Parse is a brand I look up to as a developer. Parse was acquired by Facebook, I used it in my previous role at Seatwave and it has a lot of kudos in the engineering world. Lacker’s talk focused on how “Javascript is eating the world” and how more and more developers are using Javascript outside of the browser with the node.js ecosystem, bridging the gap between front-end and back-end developers. This means that teams are becoming more and more cross-functional as the adoption of node increases. As a relative node.js newbie but long-term Javascript coder this was a nice reassurance that Javascript is starting to get the respect that it deserves.

4) Drones get a bad rep — but are doing amazing things for mankind.

For me, the most impressive talk of day two was about drones and their application to do good. We heard from Randy Braun (DJI) and Patrick Meier (Humanitarian UAV network) about some truly incredible work that they are doing together in earthquake struck Nepal. We watched a fantastic demonstration of the drone in action as Randy showed us how the drone knows where it is relative to the ground (without the use of satellites) and how you can drag it from a hovering position, release it and then watch it glide back to where the control panel has told it, it is supposed to be. These lightweight, powerful and nimble drones are being use to take high-resolution images of the crisis areas from the air and feed them into software that produces 4D images that can tell the teams on the ground where they need to be focusing their resources. Mind-blowing stuff.

5) Life is precious take care of yourself.

On a totally different note and a very welcome change of pace after thte days of running around Dublin to make it to the next talk, get to the next hosted dinner or find the next Night Summit drinks event — we listened to Jeff Pulver (co-founder of Vonage/Zula), who has been called a pioneer in VoIP telephony. Pulver talked about how the strains and demands of his fast paced life eventually took their toll on his health in 2014 when he suffered a seizure and was bed’ridden for months. Jeffs message was that the majority of the audience were probably not doing enough to look after themselves and that we should all take time for ourselves, out of our busy working days, to breathe, remind ourselves what is great about our lives and to appreciate the people and the relationships that we love — because once they or we are gone, it’s too late. Wise words indeed.

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