Paddy Cosgrave - ‘Ireland will always be in our hearts’

Web Summit founder invites Portuguese dignitaries into spotlight as event quits Dublin

In his closing remarks at the Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave attempted to repair some of the damage done in recent weeks and keep alive the possibility of bringing the conference back to Ireland in the future.

The event is moving to Lisbon from next year as part of a three-year contract with Portuguese authorities.

“Ireland will always be in our hearts, I love this city, our headquarters are here,” he said. “Web Summit couldn’t have happened without all the support from so many people in the city...We’re leaving, but we’re very hopeful that the door will remain open, and I hope that some day we return.”

He also encouraged members of the audience in the Simmonscourt Pavilion to join him and the Web Summit team on a march to the Taoiseach's Department at 6pm last night. The march was not to protest against the Government's lack of support for the event, however, but in aid of Walk4Eva, a campaign against the overwhelmingly Catholic control of education in Ireland. The campaign is named after four-year-old Eva Panicker, a Hindu girl whose parents struggled to find a nearby school that would accept her.

The Portuguese connection

At the start of the day, Mr Cosgrave invited an assortment of Portuguese entrepreneurs and dignitaries, including Portugal's deputy prime minister Paulo Portas who got to bask in some of the Web Summit spotlight.

"Lisbon has recently been described as the next Silicon Valley or San Francisco, " said Mr Portas. He promised great infrastructure and conference facilities, the obligatory great nightlife and even sunshine in November, which drew appreciative whoops from the audience, perhaps still damp from the drizzly morning in Dublin.

He also acknowledged the role of Dublin in helping the Web Summit grow, but suggested that “Lisbon will help the Web Summit grow more internationally”.

The closing keynote at the event was delivered by Pixar founder Ed Catmull. Recognised as one of the sharpest thinkers on leadership and creativity he discussed how he and other senior Pixar executives turned around Disney after it acquired Pixar in what was effectively a reverse takeover.

Laughter in the room

He also spoke of his management approach at the famous animation house. “When things are going right, there’s laughter in the room,” he said. So he makes sure the atmosphere among Pixar teams is upbeat, and identifies problems as soon as the laughter goes.

Embracing technology is a key factor in Pixar’s success, he said. “There’s a yin-yang dynamic between the artist and the technology.” Before the merger with Pixar, Disney’s decline coincided with a complacency about new technology.

As part of the final day events, Mr Cosgrave also invited on stage Margaret Jeffers of Good Food Ireland and the team running the Food Summit in Herbert Park for a deserved moment in the spotlight. However, nobody mentioned the controversy surrounding the €20 cost of lunch at the Food Summit, which has generated inevitable indignation among attendees and on social media.