Belfast sets stage for Web Summit

150 global start-ups attend ‘warm-up’ before heading to Dublin event

 

The Web Summit kicked off last night in Belfast with an event to help start-ups get warmed up ahead of the main summit in Dublin later this week.

Hosted by Invest Northern Ireland (INI) and held in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, the event sees 150 global technology start-ups and 20 investors listened to speakers including Coder Dojo founder James Whelton and Datahug founder Connor Murphy.

Once the centre of the shipbuilding industry, the Titanic Quarter is now home to a proliferation of tech firms and investors.

Caryn Topping of INI said the satellite event was an opportunity to showcase what Northern Ireland had to offer and cement its reputation as a hotspot for tech talent.

“We’re really keen to work with the Web Summit team, and if the opportunity arose to host more events, then we’d be really keen to do that,” she said.

Samantha Snabes, Nasa scientist-turned chief executive of a 3D printing start-up, travelled from Austin, Texas for the summit. Her company, re:3D, makes printers big enough to print toilets and prosthetic limbs. Most 3D printers can only print objects the size of a hand. She carried a yellow footstool she printed for the event. The print took two days, and the printer used a typical 3D cartridge containing a kind of plastic rope.

“Now we’re trying to print with trash, so you’ll be able to take your water bottles and print your world,” she said.

“I think [Belfast] is a fabulous opportunity to connect with other entrepreneurs on a more intimate scale prior to going to the Web Summit.”

She was the only person from her company at the summit because of the expense. “It’s a good way to make the most of the experience and build relationships.”

Less intense

Wendy Dent founded Cinemmerse, which sells smart cinema that can read people’s emotions as they watch a film. A neuro-headset with EEG capability captures real-time brainwave responses. Dent, originally from Australia, plans to set up shop in San Francisco. She flew in from Geneva for the Belfast Summit.

“It’s a less intense way to start the [Dublin] summit, and there’s a little less pressure. That’s good because I’ve hardly had any sleep in the past week. I’ve been preparing!”

Vassilis Dontas, CTO of London-based news aggregate website Feedespy, was in Belfast “to see if the start-up is good enough for an international audience”.