THE GROWTH of the Dublin Web Summit has been as rapid as that of many of the companies that it celebrates. From its beginnings in a Dublin hotel in 2009 the event is now arguably the largest technology conference in Europe. This week over 3,000 people from more than 50 countries gathered at the Royal Dublin Society to hear over 200 speakers discuss business and social issues around the web.
Paddy Cosgrave, organiser of the Web Summit, has said he would be happy if one foreign investor opened an office and created 10 jobs as a result of the event. The packed mid-week hotels, restaurants and bars in the capital suggest the economic contribution of the summit may already exceed that. But like a child that has grown rapidly the summit has suffered some growing pains. The technology sector thrives on hype and marketing – and conferences that serve the sector even more so. There will always be an element of smoke and mirrors involved in attracting the “rock stars” of the sector to speak at an event that is not in San Francisco, New York or London.
The State’s business development agencies, while initially suspicious of an event that seemed to appear out of the blue but was attracting the founders of some of the worlds most successful tech companies, have now embraced the event. The entrepreneurs behind Skype, YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest are among those who have had their eyes opened to Dublin’s business potential by it. They have also had the red carpet rolled out for them at F.ounders, an invite-only event that runs in parallel with the public event.
Technology alone cannot return the Irish economy to growth and the Government has identified other areas such as food, agriculture and tourism to help deliver Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s vision of Ireland as the best small country in the world to do business in. But both multinational and indigenous technology companies have defied the recession in Ireland and still offer one of our best opportunities for growth.
It is widely accepted that any conference such as the Dublin Web Summit has about seven years before the tech set move on to “the new new thing”. State agencies, sponsors and everyone involved in the local technology sector would be well advised to seize the real opportunities around the Dublin Web Summit while they still exist.