Ditching Dublin may have been best thing for Web Summit

Lisbon event feels like bumping into an ex who is getting on fine without you

The front of the Web Summit venue in Lisbon. So far it’s hard to find anything to criticise about the running of this year’s event. Photograph: Miguel A. Lopes/EPA

The front of the Web Summit venue in Lisbon. So far it’s hard to find anything to criticise about the running of this year’s event. Photograph: Miguel A. Lopes/EPA

 

The pressure is on for Web Summit and its cofounders. Opening night is always a difficult one, but when it’s opening night in a new venue, in a new country, the stakes are even higher.

The Web Summit left Ireland in a blaze of controversy last year, in search of sunnier, perhaps more supportive climes suited to its ambitions to grow the event. And though it may pain Ireland to admit it, the summit’s move to Portugal might have been the best thing for it.

Sort of like bumping into an ex and realising they’re getting on perfectly fine without you. In fact, they’re not just doing fine, they’re doing much better since the break-up.

So far – and it’s very early in the event – it’s hard to find anything to criticise about the running of this year’s Web Summit. In the run-up, things appeared to go smoothly. Transport, one of the main complaints about the Dublin event, was sorted courtesy of Lisbon’s Metro system, which connects the MEO-FIL arena, the city and the airport. The wifi? Well, it held up for the opening ceremony last night, although it will be truly tested when Web Summit opens for its first full day of business.

Yes, from an Irish perspective, we know what it’s lost by getting bigger. Sacrificing some of its initial charm, the Web Summit is already starting to seem a lot like Mobile World Congress and other European tech conferences.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing; the intimacy of those early years, when big-name investors could be clearly seen walking the floors of the RDS to mingle with startups, was always going to fade as the event got bigger.

Those coming to Web Summit for the first time – the ones who are likely to keep coming back – don’t remember those heady early days, just as those who attend Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year probably weren’t around for its early years in Cannes as 3GSM. And they probably don’t care either.

Time for everyone to wish each other well and move on.

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