Web Summit means 35 km on foot

Yes, it was that big. Web Summit 2018 hosted almost 70k visitors (10k is Swieqi’s population) and 1800+ startups in Lisbon from 5th to 9th of November.

So why do 70k tech people go to an offline and kinda old fashioned event after all? I don’t think that there is only one correct answer, but I think it is a little bit of everything:

  • 1200+ speakers
  • See some celebrities on stage
  • Free coffee and some other freebies
  • To be visible to VCs
  • FOMO
  • Networking opportunities day & night
  • Pastel de Nata
  • To make some observations about tech trends
  • A trade show for some companies and countries to attract talent

I was there to get a gist of the tech ecosystem’s whereabouts and get some fresh insights. There were 24 tracks to follow on more than 12 stages, excluding the off stage events from companies like Google, AWS, etc.

So it takes a lot of walking and running in between the stages. If you plan to to get there in the following years, make sure that you go there with a group of people and make a plan weeks ago to get the most of the event. Of course, you can always watch the sessions you missed on YouTube, but going there as a team, doing a daily sense check and investigating the venue together can be really amazing.

Unfortunately we could not get organised with other sumos on time and we all flew solo, but it may be even better to share our observations here on the blog to reflect the unique perspectives and/or challenge each other’s point of view to build on an insight. Here are my two highlights to start with:

Nothing is new while everything is changing

Machine Learning, AI, Blockchain, the art of attracting investments, the cost of growth… These topics have been exploited in almost all events within these last five years. So it is still going on: Some do not expect Blockchain to impact common people’s lives not in less than 7-10 years, some already announced that they have been talking with authorities in Malta about citizenship for the robots using SingularityNet platform on blockchain.

Data conversations were everywhere. The areas that AI and Machine Learning are being used is expanding enormously. From automotive to fashion, from content creation to GDPR… everybody is after the ways to be much smarter with rules, algorithms and create lots of content accordingly. Therefore according to IBM; only in USA there will be 2.7 mio positions around data sciences by 2020. In my humble opinion, the threat and the opportunity is the same and it is pretty clear in this case: In a world where data and content is abundant, what can make your content or your product to be more meaningful or more appealing to the audience? If relevance will not be optional but the norm –  what will make your sales content stand out and be appreciated?

There may be many answers to that question but Netflix’ CPO Greg Peters shared very nice insights about ‘relevance’. He made us realise how narrowcast Hollywood’s production was -and still is- when you consider the interest areas of whole global population. He said their local productions like 3%, El Casa de Papel and Dark showed them there are much more people to cover than Hollywood’s target audience as native English speakers with a western life style which represent just 5% of the whole world. And this is not the success of localisation only, because all these productions were consumed globally as well as USA productions like House of Cards, Stranger Things or Orange is the New Black…

Trust is scarce on every level

There were three major trust issues mentioned over and over which seem to have a massive impact in tech ecosystem:

  • Respect for Privacy: Facebook was not there and people talked behind their back a lot. They were questioning their business model which is abusing data to suck traffic into Facebook and its consequences. The need for a wind of change was evident with lots of emphasis on building trustworthy platforms and ideas. Next Generation Internet is being seen as necessary next step to create a sustainable future internet.


  • Mainstream Manipulation: We heard lots of “Fake news” conversations. It is not only about a country or any elections, but people are well aware how technology can be abused to create a public opinion and/or feed polarisation. Media representatives and journalists -as expected- claim to be very responsible about it, they talk about content safety a lot. On the other hand, the amounts of content that they have been publishing every minute is getting more and more. It is already mind blowing to hear that even mid size content creation companies can manage to test thousands of contents for their clients every week. So with such a scale, media need to trust the ‘machine’ to choose well for them among all that ‘vomit’ at the end of the day. And we need to trust them to do so?


  • Authenticity: This is more of an introverted topic compared to the first two. Most of the speakers who represent giant tech companies were putting a very honest auto-critic about the wrong decisions they made for the sake of growth. Not very openly, but they were referring to the unbearable pressure coming from the investors for growth and its unpleasant consequences. They were advising the new startups to bootstrap as much as they can, and choose a slow growth to be able to chase their dreams. So sustainable growth, sticking with the values, focusing on learning first to be able to replicate success, building stronger brands… These messages were very popular. An interesting case about authenticity was coming from Slack. I didn’t know that Slack was a by-product of a games company. So the people who created Slack were working together to design and deploy games, but not an enterprise communication software. Their story is very inspirational to see how entrepreneurship functions, and to understand how creativity and fluidity can help a culture to focus on solving real problems rather than just delivering what they are supposed to deliver.

And a quote from Slack’s Cal Henderson also summarises the whole event real well. He said -more or less-: “It is very easy and it is a trap to find yourself being really busy. You’re probably too stuck in tactical, day to day work, and you’re not focusing enough on the long term… Even if long term means just three months from now.”. And remember, this comes from a leader who was supposed to deliver a game not Slack.

So some of the tech people are too busy to deliver what they need to deliver to please the Investors. And some of them have the luxury to choose to focus on real problems of real people to get humanity to the next level…


Peek Inside the Casumo Office

Last week marked another important milestone in the Casumo office history. It’s when we opened up our second floor in our Casumo Malta castle fully, by opening up our new lobby. Many hours have been put into every little detail in our office – from the heatmap carpets on the floors to the furry purple furniture, jungle walls and the velvet curtains in our coworking lab. We thought today would be a good day to take you on a little office tour around our castle.

Finding a home for a diversely-skilled and quickly-growing company is no easy feat. So back in 2015 we decided to build our own castle, with multiple levels, all open and interconnected. It’s situated in a popular residential area, close to gyms, supermarkets, restaurants and most popular attractions, with a sunny terrace overlooking the sea.

An Unforgettable Journey   

At Casumo we believe in People, Places and Community to be the pillars of much of our Employee Experience, and that we should aim for consumer grade quality in our internal experiences.  This means that our tools and experiences internally should aim to be of the same quality as products we sell. We aim to build a product and an organization that puts the experience first, and we have a dedicated Employee Experience Team working every day to enable employees to be productive and creative without unnecessary disturbances.

A creative, playful environment is the foundation that enables us to make great things. We could have chosen a normal squared reception desk, but we chose a jellybean instead. We could have had a normal door, but then we wouldn’t have a good reason to have those Game of Thrones guys here for the opening.

Casumo office – Greener than the whole of Malta

We heard plants can reduce stress and increase creativity and productivity. So we got a few of those, 600 to be precise. It kind of has the same inspiring and calming effect that you get from spending time in nature. But with wi-fi and no mosquitos.


Designing for diversity

Casumo is a network of teams. In such an environment, sometimes the best way news travel is by the connections built by informal meetings in social spaces. A lot of effort has been put into exploring how good collaboration and good work look. We built places that range from high concentration areas, where you can sit down to read that book or code that code, to great social spaces for casual chats – especially with someone you might not bump shoulders with during the daily scramble. As we grow, we don’t believe in less interaction, but more. There will be more people to understand, more things to relate to. Good conversation, new ideas, lasting connections. These kinds of things happen in the Odditorium.


The Odditorium Eatery and Social Club

When we designed our office we knew that we needed a place to bring people together.  A centerpiece to the office, something that you’d remember when you leave. The Odditorium Eatery and Social Club is at the heart of the office and stands as a grand symbol for our view of the world. It features a Social Club with everything from board games, ping pong and pool, to a humongous screen for streaming talks, learning new things and hosting company town halls – and those late night Playstation Towerfall tournaments.

The Eatery serves healthy brainfood with breakfast, fruits and nuts every day, yummy lunches three days a week and an occasional cheesecake for the soul. Cuddle up in our gigantic staircase for a bite, or socialise out on the terrace. When lunch is ready, our in-house chef rings the bell and everybody gathers round to enjoy the food and each others company. Welcome, and bon apetit!

The Hive

Just below the giant stairs, you’ll find the Hive, an open and collaborative space where the Casumo Hivemind gather in bigger groups to bring those brilliant ideas together and get them creative juices flowing. It includes a variety of seating options that can easily be arranged to suit different needs. Fun fact: Those velvet curtains are the same curtains as used in the Oslo Opera. Supposedly very good for noise canceling.

How can we make it 1% better?

All these fun little details are what gives the office personality, and it really comes from everyone working here. We didn’t just hire an architect to design and build a ready-to-move-in office for us. We thought about how we can work together in the best way to deliver the best possible end result. We built this place together from scratch, as a team, and it will be forever work in process. There will be tweaks needed and major works in the pipeline and that’s a mindset that is deeply rooted in our culture and everything we do. We think it, we build it, we ship it, we tweak it. We allow things to take time here, the fact that everyone is contributing is what gives this place a soul.

That’d be all for today, folks! Thanks for peeking in.

Pictoplasma Berlin 2017: The blowing of socks and skins

Pictoplasma blew my socks off (together with my slippers, skin, and probably part of my nervous system too).

Last May, together with my colleagues José and Fran, I visited the Pictoplasma Conference in Berlin on my recommendation. This was the second time I visited Pictoplasma since 2014, and anxiety hit as I raised the expectations bar quite high. What follows are some things that struck me and which I would like to share…


For some context, Pictoplasma is a 3-day conference consisting of lectures, screenings, exhibitions, and workshops about character design: the creation, life, and realisation of a subject. A character usually includes a face, limbs, a voice and other typical features, but this is not a strict rule. Pictoplasma challenges that.

Although very niche, the attendees consisted of talent from across the globe. It showcases emerging trends and artists, and un-defines what a character can be. The practice of the featured artists varies from big commercial successes, such as creators from The Amazing World of Gumball and multinational toy company Hasbro, to emerging and underground talent such as Peter Millard’s ‘art-full’ animations. Characters roam across all kinds of media such as video games, toys, costumes, short films, music videos, street art, comics, merchandise, and anything possible and are made both for children or adults — in fact some of the projects are akin to creepy nightmares.

Sensei-worthy words

The healthy mixture of speakers comes from all over the world–different styles, different languages, different context. Each one had something unique to share. These are a few quotes that echoed my mind after the conference…

“With bad news, fantasy prevails”

Read: escapism. Georgina Melone from Hasbro Inc. talks about how My Little Pony prospered through harder times around the world — akin to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

“Butts are great. Make more butts. They’re great.”

One of the wisest thing I heard involved buttocks. Everyone has one: Sean Carmatz mentioned how adding a bottom to a character automatically makes it easier to empathise with. It just makes your character butt-er.

“Backgrounds and landscape are characters of their own too”

Rob Flowers explains the landscape as a meta-character that sits in the background by showing a creepy vintage McDonald’s commercial — a favourite inspiration of his.

Adrian’s Animation Awards™

Animation plays a key role at Pictoplasma. Here are some of my personal favourites.

Honorable mentions

YIN by Nicolas Fong: Worthy for M.C. Escher and Monument Valley fans.

Hi Stranger by Kirsten Lepore: If Pictoplasma would be something, it would be this.

Hot Dog Hands by Matt Reynolds: Runner-up for the ‘What-the-fuck’ award.

Bananas by Julian Frost: Because, bananas.

The Goosebumps award

Style Frames Opening Title by Eran Hilleli

Play this load. If you have a 90s Bass Boost function, use it.

It’s a rollercoaster emotional ride starting with ‘award-winning’ goosebumps generated by the horn’s excellent deep sound which consequently calls a whole series of modularly-designed creatures — big bow to Hilleli’s for S.C.A.M.P.E.R. usage here; they all feel like one big family, yet each with their distinct persona! All this followed by the formation into one of the best character parades I have ever seen — an homage to an equally awesome one by Satoshi’s Paprika. And concluding with the warmest heart-warming warmth straight to the sea giant’s heart — and inevitably, mine too.

The ‘Death-by-laughing’ award

Double King by Felix Colgrave

Sweet deliberate death.

If a Monty Python’s collage-animations and a metal album cover had a child, this would be it. It is a bit of a cliché to make a parody of the Feudal age’s harsh monarchial-realities, but not Death King.

The clean snake-pierced-with-double-swords visual together with the Gregorian-metal soundscape was probably my favourite bit — second only to the crown’s clever modular repurposing. Obviously, the Gameboy and William Morris’ floral pattern references at at 4:30 and 6:15 respectively was the cream, whilst the scene in hell was the cherry!

The Existential-crisis award

Wednesday with Goddard by Nicolas Ménard

Avoid being eaten alive by the Canadian grizzly bear.

The intro-credit sequence immediately sets the tone for a serious show using beautifully drawn nature and paired with the gentlest music reminiscent of a Disney-short — until a contrastingly crude man start a typical cheesy monologue about God’s beauty and existence. The beauty in the aesthetic together with the comically-dramatised script is one of the greatest ways to represent the feeble quests people sometimes embark to in order to find spiritual enlightenment. It’s sweet, funny, and sad all at once.

The ‘What-the-fuck’ award

What I forgot to say by Patrick Buhr


Pictoplasma has a late-night screening called Psychedelic Midnight Mix(emphasis on the psychedelic), just to make sure you have the vividest of dreams. What I forgot to say was a part of it. This short thicks all the boxes: lucid visuals, soft-voices, a deliberately-confusing plot, meow-cancelled cats, disco dogs, lines — everything. Now… what did I want to say? It doesn’t matter. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Recovering from my blown off socks and foot flesh was pretty intense. In fact, I’m still under it. Pictoplasma is probably my biggest source of amazing work I can think of. The atmosphere never degrades, the people are always unique, and the beers are always full. Fingers (and hopefully toes) crossed for an even better 2018!

Become a Casumo

Casumo Design

What it’s like to work here

Malta’s Coolest Sign Maker

An old Casumo proverb says: Fortune favours those who never grow old.

We really take that saying to heart. At Casumo when we want a sign made, we don’t just hire any sign maker. We hire THE sign maker: John Farrugia. John’s passion for signs is exactly the same enthusiasm we look for in hiring other creative Casumo’s. John is 81 and literally makes the best signs in the business. Click above to watch him at work.

The sign in question was for The Odditorium, our amazing space where crazy Casumo’s go to eat, relax, and play. Join us in the Odditorium and you too will never grow old.

OFFF 16 – Be a trouble maker

During the last weekend of May we sent a bunch of our designers to Barcelona and OFFF 16, a three-day creative conference filled with workshops, performances and talks perfect for the curious mind.

Going there is like getting an injection of inspiration. You’ll fill yourself to the brim with creativity and your brain will most likely feel slightly mushy at the end of the day. We certainly felt a little bit broken down after the last day so we needed some time to digest everything before putting together this post of our main takeaways from this years edition.

A recurring topic from many of the big agencies and studios was what they do to build and retain a great company culture. The focus wasn’t so much on agility and flexibility but rather on how they use playfulness and experimentation as an important part of the working process. Speakers from studios like Sid Lee, Ustwo and The Mill (plus many more) all talked about setting aside time and money for activities as a way of bringing the team together and allowing employees to work on their own passion projects during work hours.

No matter if you’re a huge studio or a freelance creative it’s important that you’re not just doing client work or checking things of your to do-list. Spend some time exploring new ideas and playing around just for your own curiosity’s sake. Create your own passion projects, or as Alaa Mendili from Sid Lee put it: Don’t just be a problem solver, be a problem maker.

It can be whatever you want. Some of our favourite passion projects presented on the stage was Timothy Goodman & Jessica Walsh’s 12 Kinds to Kindness, Mr Bingo’s Hate Mail book (with this amazing rap video that he produced to raise money for his Kickstart campaing) and Ustwo’s magical platform game Monument Valley which we have loved and adored since the release in 2014.

Go out and do things that you think are fun or important. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you enjoy it and it feeds your soul. It might not bring in any money today but it will make you grow.

Never grow old.