An Irishman's Diary
I ATTENDED part of that F.ounders conference – “Davos for Geeks” – in Dublin over the weekend, and I have to say it pulled out all the stops. Or most of them. In fact, strictly speaking, the stops were one of the few things the organisers didn’t pull.
As you’ll know, the expression comes from organ playing. And although Christchurch Cathedral was one of the dinner venues, I’m told the pipe organ was not deployed during the musical entertainment. The hosts did, however, pull out all the pews for the night. Which was arguably even more impressive.
It may have been significant that some of the invitation-only guests (most of whom are creators of new-technology companies) had benefited from a thing called “angel investment”. This does not imply supernatural involvement. Such investors are usually just wealthy individuals giving smart young people a start.
Even so, religion was a running theme in the choice of venues. Guests also dined in the former chapel of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. So yea, though they walk in the shadow of the valley of silicon, no evil shall these young entrepreneurs fear, at least while they’re in Ireland.
Another theme of the conference – what were the chances in Dublin? – was alcohol. But then, funnily enough, Silicon Valley is said to be one of the places still holding out against America’s new puritanism regarding drinking.
Elsewhere in the US, to order a glass of wine with lunch now is to risk your friends and family organising an intervention to tackle your problem. Whereas in places where techies assemble, the era of Mad Men, when a drinks cabinet was standard office furniture, has not entirely passed.
In any case, the F.ounders conference also involved a literary pub crawl, as well as the inevitable visit to Guinness’s. And part of the backdrop to a programme of events in Powerscourt House on Saturday was an all-day whiskey-tasting stand, which was well attended.
I WAS in Powerscourt because, in a slightly bizarre turn of events, I had to chair one of the panel discussions. It was not a geeky discussion, I hasten to add. On the contrary, the subject was a simple one: storytelling.
This being Ireland, F.ounders founder Patrick Cosgrave had decided there should be writers involved somewhere. So the Arts Council had assembled three of Ireland’s most successful literary start-ups – Colum McCann, John Boyne and Paul Murray, who together now employ hundreds of characters, some of them highly skilled – as an industry showcase.
I just had to ask the trio, and film maker Barry Sonnenfeld, enough questions to keep them talking for 25 minutes. It would have been a bigger challenge to stop them talking that long. And yet, the more I learned about F.ounders beforehand, the less qualified I felt to be doing anything there.