Web Summit 2014

Web Summit 2014

The behemoth that is the Web Summit is over for another year. Leaving in its wake a ton of ideas, inspiration and a proportionate response of outrage regarding the lack of Wi-Fi at the RDS. Despite Paddy Cosgrave’s ‘imploring’ of the RDS to improve the issue, it remained sketchy to non-existent throughout the three days – the phrase, ‘that’s a bit Irish’ unfortunately abounding. A national embarrassment? Yes, a little.
But let’s park that and instead focus on the rest of the Summit and the marvellous thought and initiative contained within. It was my first Summit and granted, I have nothing to compare it to, so gripes did not resonate with me. I was enthralled.

The talks made my brain fizz with excitement at hearing such clear, intelligent thinking. I loved hearing the tech world discussed at such a level by panels of experts so expert that the word ‘expert’ isn’t really enough.
A highlight for me was billionaire Paypal founder and first investor in Facebook, Peter Thiel, as he talked about his views on which businesses would go the distance (Twitter, of course), he also talked about AI and the future of tech inventions. He feels that the sci-fi gadgetry of Hollywood movies is, in truth, on the way. He himself receives several pitches for flying cars each year!

It was inspiring for the tech and digital industries in Ireland too, as one of Twitter’s most senior global executives praising the skills of the Irish team at the headquarters here. Post-recessionary dark days, it’s cheering to know that we are producing the right skillset for these global leaders. Maybe our kids can stay home in time.

Many of the founders and investors praised the Summit itself, for the obvious gathering together of like-minded business people but also for its positivity. The experience is all about growth and progression. ‘Can-do’ takes precedence here. ‘Solutions-driven’ being the overall keyword (Wi-Fi notwithstanding!).

Good news stories such as that of Irish start ups Stripe and were talked about and Amazon announced there would be 300 more jobs here in the next two years. Things are moving in tech. Upwards and fast.

We were delighted to see that Love & Robots won the ESB Spark of Genius award too – they are a 3-D printing company based in Dublin who specialise in custom printing using unusual materials like silver and gold. At this point they have already raised $1 million in funding and according to CEO Emer O’Daly they are number 4 in the custom 3-D printing market. They are also the company who made our own gorgeous blue blog awards.

FashMash was another great event in one of our favourite new stores, Raglan on Wednesday night, where fashion and digital heads merged and networked.

The closing panel discussion on the future of the music industry featuring Bono, House of Cards producer – Dana Brunetti, Eric Wahlforss – founder of Soundcloud, New York Times editor, David Carr and investor Bill McGlashan was the perfect end to the Summit.

Bono, as expected, engaged, entertained (and possibly enraged!) with his usual evocative rhetoric. When asked about his view on the recent iTunes debacle with their automatic download on users accounts, whether wanted or not, he said, ‘well before that lots of people were indifferent about U2; then they were mad with us. I see that as an improvement in the relationship’!
Ever the silver-tongued devil, he raised an enormous wave of laughter at the 4500 capacity centre stage. The panel discussed the need for ‘opacity versus transparency’ in the industry in order for all people involved in music to flourish, ‘like a rising tide that lifts all boats’.

It was a great talk to go out on and the Summit gradually emptied after, with the attendees heading to town for the last night of the Night Summit as town filled again with thousands upon thousands of big brains ready to discuss their own light bulb moments over pints of Guinness.

The Web Summit is ray of light for this country, so dear RDS, we all implore you to sort your connectivity issues – we can’t lose this jewel in our crown.

Here are some stats on the scale of it all…

  • 22,000 people in attendance from 109 countries
  • 82,000 coffees served
  • 2,160 exhibiting start-ups
  • 8,700 hotel rooms used
  • 87 venues used
  • 614 speakers (290 last year)
  • 2,200 people working at the event
  • 1,324 journalists in attendance
  • 86% attendees from overseas
  • 15% women at the event (let’s work on this ladies!)

Till next year…

Tweet me @elliebalfe

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