Interview with Paddy Cosgrave: Peak Ambition - Creating Europe’s Top tech Event
08 April 2014
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In this interview, Philip Nolan, Head of our Technology Team, spoke to Paddy Cosgrave, the man behind Web Summit, about the future of the conference and what it means for the Irish tech industry.
Philip Nolan (PN): Web Summit is now Europe’s largest tech event. Did you anticipate that it would be this big, and what were the key success factors?
Paddy Cosgrave (PC): When we started Web Summit back in 2010 we knew we had something exciting on our hands but I never imagined how influential it would become just three years on. This year a 20,000 strong legion of the international tech community will descend on Dublin for a three-day event.
Dublin plays a huge role in the event’s success; it rallies around Web Summit, with events taking place in its universities, churches, museums, restaurants and pubs. Everyone from hoteliers to taxi drivers goes the extra mile to make Web Summit an unforgettable experience for all our attendees.
Alongside Web Summit, we run F.ounders, an invitation-only gathering of 200 of the world’s top tech company founders. It is massively important for supplying the top class speakers we are known for.
Of course, we could not have grown to our current scale without the many partners and supporters we have worked with over the years, such as Mason Hayes & Curran. Each sponsor brings a different perspective and contribution to ensure Web Summit has the widest possible appeal.
PN: How do international tech companies view Ireland before and after their visits to Web Summit?
PC: When we initially started, Ireland was somewhat an unknown for many of the tech companies when they registered to attend. Fortunately there is a growing awareness internationally of Ireland’s tech ecosystem now. Major international publications regularly feature stories about Ireland as Europe’s digital hub. In fact, many of the companies who have now set up in Ireland had their first engagement with the country at Web Summit.
The event allows companies to meet and network with companies that have set up here, such as Twitter, Dropbox, Qualtrics, Qualcomm, TripAdvisor, Facebook and Google, and hear about their experiences.
Having Enda Kenny ringing the NASDAQ opening bell from Ireland on our main stage last year also demonstrated the backing that the tech industry has in this country, as well as the global recognition for Ireland in this sector.
Paddy Cosgrave on stage with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny for the ringing of the NASDAQ bell at Web Summit 2013.
Photo credit: Conor McCabe Photography
PN: How do speakers and exhibitors benefit from Web Summit?
PC: First, there is the chance for speakers and exhibitors to share their message with an international audience at the largest tech event in Europe as well as with millions of other people online. Many attendees get to meet and speak with some of the top tech leaders in the world in a relaxed and social environment.
Secondly, they get the opportunity to interact with other speakers in an intimate environment at the many invite-only speaker events we hold. Many of our speakers make Dublin a regular fixture on their calendars now.
Exhibitors are located in prime locations throughout the event, based on their industry. We work closely with all our exhibitors to ascertain what it is they want to gain from the event, and we deliver on this.
PN: A number of your speakers and exhibitors have gone on to set up in Ireland. What encourages them to invest in Ireland?
PC: Ireland is now a global technology hub and a magnet for tech businesses, startups and entrepreneurs, due to a combination of a talented workforce, a business friendly environment, access to EU markets, proximity to the US and an international reputation for research, development, innovation and technology.
Our service industries, such as legal, accounting and tax advisory are second to none, and provide companies setting up in Ireland with a solid base.
The Irish Government and its agencies such as the IDA and Enterprise Ireland do a stellar job of supporting and encouraging the set-up of companies in Ireland.
As well as this, our graduate numbers in the areas of engineering, science and business are increasing, with six out of every ten students achieving a degree in these areas, a fact which can only make the workforce here more attractive to those who wish to invest in Ireland.
PN: Are there any changes that would make Ireland more attractive as a location for small and large technology companies and investors?
PC: We have a talented Irish workforce, but we need a larger pool of skilled technology workers to keep up with the growth of tech companies setting up here. It is essential that we open our borders to international tech talent and continue to foster our young people’s learning at school and through organisations such as CoderDojo.
PN: What does the future hold for Web Summit?
PC: Web Summit’s journey is just beginning; we have so much to learn and improve upon. We will continue to grow and enhance the event, diversifying into the streams of cloud, internet of things, digital marketing, fi lm, music, food, health, art, sport and more.
We will also be focusing on expanding The Summit’s sister event, Collision, Vegas, which will debut in May 2014. Our goal is to keep pace with our rapidly changing global and social economy to make sure that we can offer the best forum both in Ireland and around the world. Exciting times ahead.