Start-ups told: think big to go global
The Web Summit kicked off with plenty of pitching to potential investors, while established firms announced an array of interesting projects
STARTUPS MINGLED with tech industry titans at the Web Summit in Dublin yesterday, as the two-day event kicked off.
Entrepreneurs including Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom and Pinterest co-founder Paul Sciarra shared their experiences with the potential companies of the future.
Companies were encouraged to think big and go global.
“If you have something that works, you have to go out and scale internationally very quickly or else someone is going to copy you,” Zennstrom warned.
Opening the main stage yesterday morning was David Shing, AOL’s digital prophet, who spoke about the value of social media to companies and brands. His verdict? The Facebook land grab for “likes” is a rubbish concept.
“I think it’s diluted,” he said. “‘Like’ isn’t engagement. There’s certainly a percentage that will be actively engaged, but it won’t be a sum total of all the parts.”
Only 18 per cent of people on social media actually intend to purchase a product or service, he said.
While startups took the opportunity to pitch to potential investors, companies used the tech conference, now in its third year, to announce their latest news.
Coder Dojo founder James Whelton was awarded the Ashok fellowship. It means he joins a growing network of social entrepreneurs around the globe that includes such tech luminaries as Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales.
Coder Dojos are free clubs that encourage participants to create programmes and collaborate with others. More than 1,000 Irish children take part each week in the clubs, and they have also spread further afield to the UK, South Africa, Uganda and the US.
“The biggest challenge that society Ireland, Europe and other parts of the world are facing is the unemployment challenge,” said Paul O’Hara, director of Ashoka Europe. “The skills gap that James is bridging, helping young people learn how to code, is so critical for bridging at least some of that unemployment.”
Whelton’s influence was evident at the event. In among the seasoned tech professionals were some of the next-generation Coder Dojo participants. One of the younger attendees, 12-year-old Shane Curran, has even set up his own company, Libramatic, while Con Moran (13) is already mentoring students and is working on bigger projects with Codor Dojo’s Bill Liao. Another participant, Millie Kearny (12), is already eyeing up a career in the games industry.
The future entrepreneurs had plenty to look up to at the event. Stripe’s Patrick Collison outlined what it is like to work in a startup, although the company has managed to grow considerably in recent months. Its latest announcement was Stripe Connect, which allows users who sign up for a site or app to start accepting payments almost immediately, with a Stripe account set up automatically for them.
Close to 4,000 attendees will have passed through the RDS by the time the conference closes this evening, including hundreds of venture capitalists and startups seeking to make an impact on the market.
Startups also vied for the chance to make it to the final of the Electric Ireland Spark of Genius competition. The final of the competition will take place this afternoon, with the winner announced at the close of the Web Summit.