Friday was my first Dublin Web Summit and it far exceeded my expectations in every way. Paddy Cosgrove pulled off a jaw-droppingly impressive feat over the three days and I can’t congratulate him enough.
I won’t go into enormous detail on the Summit, I really wanted to highlight a few key takeaways and offer one strong criticism.
The quality of the speakers that I saw was pretty amazing. The Irish were just as impressive as their US and UK counterparts and the strong sense of community was palpable everywhere. I think we have struggled to create a tech community here and it has been quite fractured and cliquish. Paddy has managed to overcome this and get everyone together, talking, networking and buzzing.
I loved the focus a lot of speakers put on failure. The response to failure in Ireland still remains very much “oh him, he’s just a chancer, his last business went bust”. These words usually coming out of the mouths of people who has never taken a risk in their lives. So it was a joy to see everyone from Jonathan Siegel to Jeff Clavier to Niklas Zennstrom talk about failing and failing again and getting up and falling down and trying again. That message more than any has to be broadcast and baked into the DNA of this country. There are no get-rich-quick schemes, there is just hard work and perseveranceÂ and doing your best to help others in the same boat as you.
Like everyone else in the room, I absolutely loved the gaming panel on Friday. It wasn’t just the humour and smart-arsery, it was the acknowledgement, finally, that gaming is a massive success story for Ireland. Why we have had such a problem admitting this I don’t know. Perhaps Plants vs Zombies doesn’t impress Government departments as much as Microsoft Office. Whatever it is, the ideas presented for growing this sector made absolute sense to me.
And now for the criticism. I have a huge problem with the Playas vs Plebs thing that happened with the two separate conferences. In all the years I’ve been to tech conferences I’ve never encountered anything like it. I still don’t understand why it was necessary. Marissa Meyer doesn’t skip TechCrunch Disrupt because some nobody can walk up to her and have a chat. Jack Dorsey doesn’t skip Le Web because a Paddy can go up to him to shoot the breeze. So why a separate invite-only conference in Ireland? Were they afraid the players wouldn’t come unless it was “exclusive”? As for the “Davos for Geeks” line, c’mon, get real. Bitter much, of course I am
A merged single summit could easily be another Le Web. The reason I go to that conference every year is because it is “flat”. From pre-launch startups to billionaires, journalists and bloggers, all of them mixing, chatting and networking. Every cup of coffee an opportunity. Of course there are private dinners and private parties but the daytime is for everyone. We need more events like this in Europe and I think Dublin Web Summit could be one of the best. But it has to be one summit.
Two more very positive notes:
First, big props to Atomico. Those guys spent the entire day meeting startups and listening to their pitches. I popped up to say hello and they were deeply apologetic. The booklet we all received made it look like you could drop in unannounced. In fact it had to be pre-booked. But rather than send us all packing, they are doing follow-ups with anyone who didn’t get a face to face meeting. My kinda guys!
Finally, congrats to DataHug. I didn’t see their pitch but even a second-hand description of what they do was enough to tell me they are on to a winner. If it works well, they will be snapped up in less than 24 months.