Profits surge at company behind Web Summit after Lisbon move

Attendee numbers at flagship event have risen from under 400 to projected 70,000

Paddy Cosgrave on stage at Web Summit in Lisbon last year

Paddy Cosgrave on stage at Web Summit in Lisbon last year

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The group that operates the Web Summit reported record profits in 2016, the year in which the company first ran the tech conference in Lisbon following its controversial move from Dublin.

The relocation enabled the company to significantly grow the event with registered attendee numbers rising from less than 30,000 in Dublin in 2015 to 50,000 a year later in Lisbon.

Newly-filed abridged accounts for Manders Terrace Limited, the holding company behind the Summit and its various sister events, show pre-tax profits jumped to €2.27 million for the 12 months ending December 31st 2016, from just €230,302 a year earlier.

The 2016 accounts don’t disclose the company’s revenue for the year but reported gross profits increased to €11.5 million from €6.94 million as net income rose to €2.05 million from €128,000 in 2015.

The Irish-founded tech conference started in Ireland in 2009 with less than 400 attendees. Web Summit has continued to grow and now expects to attract about 70,000 attendees to this year’s event in November.

The jump in attendee numbers and an increase in commercial partnerships following the move to Lisbon helped boost profits for the group as did an agreement reached with the Portuguese government to pay the event organisers €1.3 million each year to host the conference under its three-year deal.

The company behind Web Summit also run a number of sister events: Collision in New Orleans, Rise in Hong Kong and MoneyConf, which this year will be hosted in Dublin. In addition to a rise in attendee numbers for its flagship conference, the company is projecting a rise in visitors to its other events this year.

Recruitment drive

Indeed, both Rise and Collision are growing at a faster rate than Web Summit did in its early years.

Employee numbers at Web Summit rose from 103 in 2015 to 129 a year later and now stands 180 following a recent recruitment drive. The company is currently hiring 50 more people.

Staff costs, rose to €6.66 million in 2016 from €4.96 million a year earlier.

Directors’ remuneration totalled €350,000, down from €371,749 in the prior year. Chief executive Paddy Cosgrave owns an 81.3 per cent stake in Manders Terrace through a company called Proto Roto. Co-founders David Kelly and Daire Hickey hold 11.97 per cent and 7 per cent stakes respectively.

Mr Cosgrave announced Web Summit would be relocating from Dublin to Lisbon shortly before the 2015 conference was held.

Not long after the announcement was made, the event organisers released email correspondence between it and the then government outlining a number of reasons that made it difficult for the event to remain in Dublin, including rising hotel prices and traffic management issues.

However, there was mixed reaction to the release of the emails. It led some to question whether the government could have done more to keep the event in Ireland, while others thought the demands from Web Summit were over the top.

Web Summit’s current deal with the Portuguese government ends in 2018. While the company has the option of a two-year extension, it is believed that Mr Cosgrave is in negotiations with a number of potential bidders over where the 2019 event will be held.

A spokesman for Web Summit said the company did not comment on financial results.

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