As those of you who are keen followers of our twitter and Facebook pages may know, we were at Mobile World Congress last week. MWC is the world’s largest mobile conference, and takes place in February each year in Barcelona, with 70,000 exhibitors, journalists and visitors flying in for the week. In order to give you an idea of how seriously MWC is taken, we can quote an unnamed telecoms journalist who was overheard to loudly proclaim (after possibly one too many glasses of Rioja) that ‘this is my Glastonbury’.
While we wouldn’t go that far (although the absence of mud and camping does give MWC some serious points) it was an amazing week, a whirl of exhaustion and excitement. For OpenSignal, the major highlight was winning the SmartUK award (run by UKTI) for the ‘UK’s most innovative mobile company’. A great honour, especially as we were up against some very tough competitors in the final. Below is a photo of Brendan, CEO of OpenSignal, being presented with the award by Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries.
When searching for unified underlying thematic elements to describe the week, aside from ‘mobile’ (a given at a mobile conference), the next most prevalent would have to be football, which popped up in some unexpected places. Our first night saw us heading over to Barcelona’s third cathedral, the Camp Nou, to marvel at the city’s greatest artist since Miró – Leo Messi. Our final night saw us celebrating a successful conference over supper with a bottle of wine called ‘Leo Premium’, its label in the shape of a football and the scratched signature of the illustrious Argentine on the reverse. In between, in a moment of unexpected astonishment, we met Niall Quinn. Obviously, this is deserving of a photo.
Many of the best events at MWC run tangential to the conference itself, with lots of opportunities to present to other start-ups, journalists, VCs and the general public. We started the week presenting at Mobile Heroes, an MWC fringe event, which was great fun and a fantastic way to get warmed up for the conference itself. During the week we attended pitching events run by Mobile Marketing Magazine and Tech Crunch and gave interviews to Sky News, Telesemana, Light Reading, Radio 1 and TCMB.
For the first time, MWC was held in a new venue, rather further away from the centre of town than in previous years. The levels of grumbling this caused were in absolutely no way proportional to the added inconvenience, the new purpose-built centre at Fira Gran Via was spacious, pristine and well-organised. I’m also going to be in serious trouble for having this opinion. Our booth looked great thanks to the hard work of our designer Daniil, and we had a steady stream of visitors come past, meaning that we were all in danger of losing our voices by the end of the week. In all, it was a great conference. We met many interesting people, had some good meetings and pitched to some curious and intelligent audiences. We also had a lot of fun, Barcelona is a complicated, marvellous city. The borderline-hubristic optimism of the Mobile industry, who believe they hold the future quite literally in the palms of their hands, was relieved by Gaudi’s accidental monument to the incomplete, reminding us that the connected world still has a long way to go. Oh, and the modern art museum’s worth a visit.