Cantillon: Web Summit can seek new heights
As Elon Musk hinted, we need more than a competitive tax rate to truly turn ourselves into a start-up hub
Paypal founder Elon Musk hands his jacket to Enda Kenny at the Web Summit, in the RDS Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
So the web summit was a huge success. Despite the wobbly wifi at the venue and ill-timed water shortages that didn’t portray the city as a leading first-world tech hub to its thousands of well-connected international attendees, it can be regarded as a significant coup.
The fact that the Taoiseach made it his business to be front and centre on both days shows how significant Paddy Cosgrave’s endeavours are regarded even in the corridors of power. And to judge by the heavyweight names in the tech world attending, those endeavours are now well regarded in the sunnier climes of Silicon Valley.
There may have been a touch of bedlam to it all, but there no question we have an event in our midst that can be compared with the likes of SXSW in Texas without the usual sniggers. The challenge now is to become something more than merely the hub for European tech connections, where deals are done and start-up stars are accelerated, but all we end up being is the host, pulling pints and spinning yarns.
We can, of course, use the summit to showcase our successful start-ups and hopefully introduce a few of the rank and file to the investors who can turn them into tech superstars. But is there more than can be done?
Elon Musk offered some suggestions during his impressive “fireside chat” on Thursday evening, suggesting the Government should consider removing fees from third-level engineering courses. He also suggested that these free courses should be open to students from anywhere with the trade-off that they stay in Ireland.
Musk’s seemingly off-the-cuff recommendations to Enda Kenny may be dismissed as the fanciful suggestions of a disinterested tourist, but at its core is a suggestion that we need more than a competitive tax rate to truly turn ourselves into a start-up hub. That extra element can come through education.
In the meantime the organisers can plan for next year with the aim of matching the success achieved this week.