Enda Kenny on crest of a wave at Surf Summit

Attendees at Web Summit spinoff say it’s a better way to meet people and make contacts

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was the star of the show for more than 200 investors, start-ups and entrepreneurs who were in Westport, Co Mayo for the Web Summit spinoff, Surf Summit, over the weekend.

The techies queued for up to 30 minutes for a selfie with the “Irish prime minister” who drew laughter from the attendees by referring to laptops as “little techie things”. He encouraged the start-ups in attendance to “challenge the big firms here and raise the bar”.

The event heard from pro surfer Andrew Cotton, Jimmy Gopperth and Jonny Miller of Tribe, John Huikku of Brown Bag Films, Chris Kelly and Richard Welsh of Big Balls Media, Brendan O’Driscoll, Aidan Sliney and Craig Watson of Soundwave, and another pro surfer Anastasia Ashley, who discussed the challenges of professional surfing and building up your personal brand.

“I’ve been told No a thousand times to every Yes – surf mags, brands I want to work with,” she said. “ Stay persistent and don’t let people steal your self-worth or value. All you need is one Yes.”


The attendees all took to the waves of Achill for some surfing and kitesurfing, before partaking in zorbing, ziplining and archery tag at Westport House.

Sara Hill from VegasTechFund, a $50 million Las Vegas-based investment fund, was at the event to meet other investors as well as entrepreneurs. Hill, who manages the fund’s accelerator programme The Mill, also attended the Web Summit last week.

“I liked the diversity at the Web Summit and the choice of smaller summits. That was unique. Smaller events such as the Surf Summit are a better platform to connect with people.”


Jenni Alasuutari of Helsinki-based sports activity booking firm Bookndo said she came to the Surf Summit to network with other sportspeople and to make some contacts.

“We are planning to launch early next year and want to pilot our business here. I met David Minton of Mayo County Council and think Mayo would be a good place to start it.”

Abakar Saidov of New York-based recruitment platform Seed Jobs said he was looking to connect with entrepreneurs. “Everyone at the Web Summit has an agenda. People at the Surf Summit don’t. You can meet people but not under the guise of seeking investment or sales.”

Mayo County Council chief executive Peter Hynes said the county’s enterprise credentials were strong with multinationals like Allergan, Coca-Cola, Baxter and Hollister as well as many new start-ups. “We believe we have much more potential, especially in the technology sphere,” he said.

Others in attendance at the event included Michael Copeland, partner at Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, Gordon Dent of London-based Workshape, a talent matching service for start-ups, Kimberley Fink, founder of Philadelphia-based Treatmint Box, and Mailjet vice-president Anthony Marnell.