Web summit reaches new heights
Europe’s fastest-growing and most celebrated technology conference, the Dublin Web Summit, which takes place this week, has quickly become a fixture on the international calendar
AT FIRST GLANCE, the offices are almost a caricature of what a start-up is supposed to look like – there are clean white walls, frosted glass partitions and stylish black chairs. One wall is covered in post-it notes, a fluttering yellow plan of action. The open-plan upstairs office space is buzzing with a startlingly youthful group of staff, arrayed in front of monitors and laptops, and on every couch and in every corner, people are projecting a sense of purpose.
Instead of building an app or developing a social network, however, this young team is in the final stages of organising Europe’s fastest growing and most celebrated technology conference, the Dublin Web Summit.
“It absolutely is a start-up culture here,” says 29-year-old founder Paddy Cosgrave. “We didn’t take time to plan out the culture, it just grew this way – it’s just the nature of the beast.”
Daire Hickey, the web summit’s co-organiser and director of communications, agrees. “I don’t know if we cultivate , but it is something that happened,” he says. “If you think about it, the ‘management’ are all under 30. The average age of the people in here is probably about 24 or 25.”
It is, of course, somewhat appropriate that a conference devoted to tech should develop as if it was itself an early-stage tech company – there is a hint of amazement in Cosgrave’s voice as he describes how his vision has rapidly developed in the three years since the conference premiered in 2010, when 600 people crammed into Chartered Accountants House to see speeches by entrepreneurs such as Jack Dorsey of Twitter, Chad Hurley of YouTube and Niklas Zennström of Skype.
This Wednesday and Thursday, 3,000 attendees are expected to fill the RDS for a packed schedule of events, including talks by Kevin Rose of Digg, writer Robert Scoble, Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim and Hollywood director Barry Sonnenfeld.
“The speed we’ve grown at has been incredible,” says Cosgrave. “In March of this year, we had an argument about whether we should take this office, because we thought it would take two years to fill it. Six months later, we’re in two buildings. That’s how fast it’s gone. We never thought it would grow so fast, because the only other conferences in Europe that are about the same size are a decade old.”
Alongside its smaller, more exclusive sibling, F.ounders, which is attended by an invited coterie of 150 tech entrepreneurs, the web summit has quickly become a fixture on the international tech calendar, keenly anticipated by developers, investors and tech journalists from across the US and Europe.