Paddy Cosgrave’s Rise event in Hong Kong draws 8,000

Robotics was a key theme for many at the WebSummit man’s event

Paddy Cosgrave: “Rise is growing up like WebSummit. Rise is a good bit bigger now.”

Paddy Cosgrave: “Rise is growing up like WebSummit. Rise is a good bit bigger now.”

 

WebSummit founder Paddy Cosgrave hailed the success of the company’s Hong Kong event Rise, which has seen a strong increase in attendees in its second outing despite a cooling economic backdrop.

Last week, Rise welcomed 8,144 global participants from 88 countries to Hong Kong, up from 5,000 attendees from over 70 countries last year, and tweets from @RISEConfHQ racked up 1.2 million impressions.

“Rise is growing up like WebSummit. Rise is a good bit bigger now,” Cosgrave said in an interview with The Irish Times.

The event featured 220 speakers presenting on five stages, and the pace of networking by entrepreneurs, start-ups, investors and the press in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre was frantic.

In the evening, participants left the Wan Chai area where the event was being held and went to the Lan Kwai Fong and SoHo districts of the city, where there were Rise -themed events and summits being held in some of the city’s best watering holes and eateries.

The slowing economy was on exhibitors’ minds. The slowdown in valuations of firms, such as the “unicorn” companies, as well as the slowdown in the value of publicly listed companies over the past 12 months has also been a factor.

“There are lots of major economies that are slowing down or going in the wrong direction, so it’s chillier times than it has been in the past. Not as dark as in 2008 or 2009, but not as bright as in 2012 or 2013,” said Cosgrave.

Drone company

“There was lots of hardware at the show. It was opened by DJI, the drone company based in Shenzhen who did a demo. There is a lot happening out here,” he said. “Shenzhen was the factory of the world, and Taiwan was making stuff for so long that eventually some smart people began to say ‘hey, maybe we should do it ourselves and brand it and sell it to the world’.”

Chinese handset maker Xiaomi was at the event, as was OnePlus, which had gone from being a start-up at WebSummit with a one-metre booth three years ago to being poised to launch its own Android smartphone.

Robotics was a big theme, especially in Hong Kong where the government has committed to building a centre of excellence for robotics.

The start-ups most requested for meetings by investors were DigiByte Holdings, Know Your Customer and FengVest, and 435 start-ups exhibited at the event.

Among the highlights of Rise for Cosgrave was a talk by Min-Liang Tan, the founder of Taiwanese gaming company Razer, which had 40,000 people tuning in to Facebook to listen. It was the most-viewed talk on the company’s livestream with 79,575 views.

Mickael Mas works with a South Korean start-up called Symaps which is a data-enrichment API and visualisation engine that does geographic analysis to let big companies know where they should locate their next shop or outlet. Among their partners are Louis Vuitton, alcohol companies and big Korean companies.

Mas believes the Rise is a useful way for them to meet investors to help them expand.

“If we can raise some money, it will help us accelerate. The product works now, we want to scale up and we want to scale fast,” said Mas.

Cosgrave expects WebSummit in Lisbon to examine the kind of impact technologies are having on people’s lives.

“What happens when we don’t need drivers any more, when doctors don’t need to do diagnosis but are there to tell you what the computer says, or what do we need accountants for? Sports reports can write themselves? What do we need to teach in our schools?”

“The summit will involve more policymakers and shakers, a lot more politicians,” he said.

Asked if WebSummit would return to Dublin, Cosgrave said: “Dublin is an amazing location to bring people together. It’s relatively easy to create something there.”

However, he said the scale of WebSummit meant Lisbon was a better option.

Lisbon vs Dublin

“The city [Dublin] and the venue were overwhelmed with people. We can scale all the way up to 80,000 people in Lisbon. They just happened to hold the World Expo over a decade ago, they redeveloped a whole area of the city, they built the public transport infrastructure around the venue to move people rapidly and build a state-of-the-art facility,” he said. “The RDS is a beautiful and amazing venue but it’s not built for human beings – it’s built for horses.”

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