The Next Web and the launch of Lily

Written by Sjoerd Romkes on 15th June 2017

On the 18th and 19th of May, the annual The Next Web Conference took place in Amsterdam. Our TNW crew existed of 27 people, all eager to either join the notorious hack battle, learn about the future of technology, or launch the beta version of Lily.

On our way to The Next Web

While eight of our crew were already hacking away at TNW’s Battle of the Sensors on Wednesday, we were still in our office in Groningen. Four of us departed in the evening towards Amsterdam by car, as the traffic is horrible in the morning and we wanted to be early at TNW’s first conference day.

During the two hour drive to our hostel; Luuk was photoshopping the last needed digital materials for Lily, Mark set up a Wi-Fi hotspot through 4G and improved the Lily website, my co-driver Allard was providing music and directions, and a Bluetooth speaker played heavy drum ‘n bass through Spotify. What if you told someone 20 years ago this was all possible in a tiny black car blasting 130 km p/h on a highway? If only I could help out by putting the car in autopilot mode.

It’s a totally normal situation these days, but I guess this shows why we won’t live and work without the newest technologies anymore. We love it, it helps us to be more efficient and makes things a lot easier. Once we arrived at our lovely hostel the Train Lodge, we were welcomed with some cold beers and the great stories from the hack battle boys.

Day one: don’t disturb your users

After a good night sleep and nice breakfast, our first conference day started. It all took place at the Westergasterrein, where the Westergasfabriek is located. An impressive venue and the grand opening hit the right spot to get us into the mood.

After all the spectacle the interesting opening talk was, ironically enough, about Calm Technology by Amber Case. In a nutshell, she explained that technology is here to help us be more human. When developing new products or services, make sure they disturb your users as little as possible. Your product isn’t the only thing someone is using during the day; be aware of the time and attention.

Funnily enough, we’ve held off on building notifications in Lily (our personal assistant for teams) as it is very difficult to create default notifications that contain a high value for every user. Besides that, by constantly improving the user experience and lowering the amount of manual input, a user has time to focus on the client they’re talking to instead of being held back by ‘the system’.

Other interesting talks I attended were by Ray Chan (9GAG) talking about the future generation and the interesting differences when comparing survey results between millennials from European and Asian countries.

Danny Lopez (Blippar) spoke about augmented reality and the impact on our society. My guess is that once AR (like QR codes) is automatically shown when using a smartphone camera (and not in a separate app), it will really take off.

Mikko Hypponen (F-Secure) did a great talk about security, IoT, and the recent WannaCry ransomware attack. Once again, his point was to think about non-tech savvy users when creating products and services. Users don’t like reading manuals or setting things up like us nerds do: stuff just has to work and be secure right out of the box. Make sure the default security settings work and there’s always an offline option to fall back on when the internet goes down.

In the end, it was hit and miss when attending a talk, as some were only throwing around with fancy tech words but not really telling something new or interesting. I really wanted to see Nir Eyal’s talk about being ‘hooked’ on products or services as his book was really interesting. But, I didn’t want to miss out on my colleagues presenting the results of their hackathon at the same timeslot.

Day two: Lily’s ready for take-off

After a cozy dinner and a night full of laughs, beer, music, and some sleep we were totally ready for the second day of TNW. On Friday we didn’t really see much talks at the conference, as we were beta launching our product Lily! Lily is the personal assistant for your whole team, she helps you gain and keep customers. Besides a full Gmail synchronization and the ability to easily assign to or take over work from your colleagues, Lily is capable of several automagic tricks. Lily hands you the right information when you need it.

With the conference starting around 10, it was finally our time to shine. For the first time publicly showing Lily was exciting but scary at the same time. Nerves went away pretty quickly, as we got a lot of positive responses from people signing up through our demos and asking critical questions at our booth. We’re currently in the beta stage (you can still join if you’re interested) and continue developing our product. By assisting users, they can work more efficient and be more human during their daily job.

De Lily stand op The Next Web

Heading home

The Next Web of 2017 truly was a great experience: all the info, interesting people, talks, and insights from the conference. Something we didn’t want to miss out on.

Are we going to TNW in the future? Well, thanks to the Hyperloop project Tim Houter (Hardt) promised us, the time distance between Groningen and Amsterdam will be lowered drastically to around 15 minutes. It seems there will no longer be nights filled with music and laughs at the hostel needed so I’m not sure… Just kidding, if The Next Web keeps giving us a glimpse of the future we’ll certainly going to be there!

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