Final touches as technology buffs arrive for Web Summit

Summit opens today with 20,000 expected from 109 countries

Preparations for the web summit  under way in the RDS, Dublin, as the technology conference opens its doors to the public  today. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Preparations for the web summit under way in the RDS, Dublin, as the technology conference opens its doors to the public today. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

 

When the first Web Summit took place in 2010, it didn’t register on many people’s radars. Founded by Paddy Cosgrave, Daire Hickey and David Kelly, it attracted just 500 guests. This year it will boast 20,000 attendees. More than 18,000 overseas visitors from 109 countries have landed in the capital for the event, which kicks off in the RDS today.

Amid the celebrities – such as U2 frontman Bono, Hollywood actor Eva Longoria, supermodel Lily Cole and footballer Rio Ferdinand – there will be more than 100 of the world’s top tech chief executives, 700 investors and more than 2,000 start-ups. Between them, they have booked 13,000 hotel rooms and B&Bs and will use 87 venues across Dublin city.

“Not only does it bring in great business for Dublin but it does much more for brand Dublin and brand Ireland. It presents Ireland as an innovative and creative place to visit and do business,” says Fáilte Ireland’s John Concannon.

Concannon also points to the international media coverage. Last year, Fáilte Ireland welcomed more than 1,400 journalists to Ireland, generating an estimated €79 million in advertising value. “The sheer scale of media it attracts is staggering and they are all coming from very well-known publications and news organisations. They will cover the Web Summit, but a lot of them will also cover Ireland.”

Companies that have opened offices in Ireland, directly as a result of the Web Summit, include Smartling, Qualtrics, Wonga, Quantcast and Nordeus.

Translation software firm Smartling co-founder Jack Welde says: “I went to a founders’ dinner [organised by the Web Summit] in New York. I was really impressed with Paddy Cosgrave. I couldn’t believe the amount of top NYC entrepreneurs he knew. I got chatting to him and ultimately came to Ireland for the Web Summit.”

He says the big draw was the chance to make connections with other chief executives and founders through the various side events and night summits surrounding the technology conference. “When we were looking to expand the company, we considered London and Berlin, but ultimately chose Dublin as we knew the city and people in the city through the Web Summit,” he says.

Smartling opened its first European office in Dublin six months ago.

The Web Summit has also allowed the IDA to develop relationships with businesses, which helped attract a number of emerging technology companies to the country, according to the agency’s Barry O’Dowd. Such is the importance of the event to the IDA that O’Dowd says the agency is bringing its international team home from places such as New York, Silicon Valley, Frankfurt and London for this week’s conference.

“It allows us to build relationships with investors,” says O’Dowd. “They are important to us in terms of networking. We also work to attract foreign VC firms to set up in Ireland.”

Huge investment deals have also occurred as a result of the event, one being venture capital funding of €26.5 million which ride-sharing app Uber secured following a meeting with investor Shervin Pishevar in Dublin.

The summit has been criticised as being an event for the tech elite, one that is expensive for start-ups to attend. However, Cosgrave says the event is much cheaper than American conferences of the same size, which can charge in the region of €5,000 for start-ups. “We charge them €400 per ticket and they get a free stand with that,” he says.

While it does charge bigger tech firms a fixed fee of €9,950, it is free for many early-stage start-ups.“We gave away €250,000 worth of tickets to women in tech. We have 3,500 secondary school students coming to our Tuesday night event. We have 5,022 third-level students and recent graduates signed up for our Wednesday night event.”

The two events, which are free to students, will include speakers such as Dropbox founder Drew Houston, Google’s vice-president of engineering Anna Patterson and Silicon Valley Robotics managing director Andra Keay, and aim to teach students about careers in technology and entrepreneurship.

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