Paddy Cosgrave resigns as Web Summit chief with ‘immediate effect’ over Israel-Hamas comments

Chief executive of tech conference said his comments had become ‘a distraction from the event’ taking place in Lisbon next month

Web Summit founder and chief executive Paddy Cosgrave has resigned following a week of controversy over tweets he sent about the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Mr Cosgrave said he was resigning as chief executive with “immediate effect”, admitting that his personal comments had “become a distraction from the event, and our team, our sponsors, our startups and the people who attend. I sincerely apologise again for any hurt I have caused”.

A Web Summit spokesperson said the event would go ahead as planned in Lisbon between November 13th and 16th.

“Web Summit will appoint a new CEO as soon as possible,” the spokesperson added.


In an internal message sent to staff on Saturday, the company sought to reassure them that there was “no risk” to their job or the Web Summit’s long-term security.

Web Summit was made of “diverse people and talents spread across multiple continents and has seen significant challenges before a global pandemic,” the message stated.

“Once again, we are facing a challenge, it is within our collective capabilities to stay true to what we do best and deliver world-class global events and experiences.

“The entire leadership team is focused on how they can support you through this and beyond continuing this company’s extraordinary growth and delivering world-class events.”

Web Summit is 81 per cent owned by Mr Cosgrave, according to accounts filed last year. They show that the event organiser made a profit of €3.8 million after tax in 2021, on a turnover of €31.8 million.

A string of tech companies pulled out of the Web Summit in recent days, including Amazon, Google and Facebook-owner Meta.

The departures were preceded by Intel and Siemens, who said on Thursday that they would no longer participate in the November gathering.

“We will no longer have a presence at Web Summit” Google said in a statement on Friday.

In a post a week ago on X, formerly known as Twitter, Mr Cosgrave said he was “shocked at the rhetoric and actions of so many western leaders & governments, with the exception in particular of Ireland’s Government, who for once are doing the right thing. War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are.”

He subsequently apologised and said he was withdrawing from the platform for a few days.

Will Gaybrick, chief product officer at the Irish-founded payments platform Stripe, has also pulled out as a speaker in the conference.

In a statement on Thursday, German industrial giant Siemens said “following recent developments” around the Web Summit it had decided not to attend the conference this year.

A spokeswoman for Intel, the US chip manufacturer with a large plant in Leixlip, Co Kildare, confirmed the company “has withdrawn from this year’s Web Summit”.

In response to a request for comment, a spokeswoman for the Web Summit said “is looking forward to welcoming 70,000 attendees from around the world with a full programme this November”.

Actor Gillian Anderson has also decided to pull out of Web Summit. A spokesperson for G-Spot, the former X-Files actor’s drinks brand, said she had made the decision to withdraw from a slated appearance at the event because the “brands’ values do not align”. Actor Amy Poehler had also been due to appear but no longer featured on Web Summit’s website on Friday evening.

Flint Capital, a Boston-based venture capital fund, has also pulled out of its involvement with the conference, according to one of its partners, Sergey Gribov.

Following his initial social media post, Mr Cosgrave later added the actions of Hamas were “outrageous and disgusting”.

However, his initial comments led several influential figures in the tech sector to state they would not participate in future Web Summit events. Dor Shapira, the Israeli ambassador to Portugal, also said Israel would boycott the event.

The Web Summit was originally set up and held in Dublin before being moved to Lisbon in 2015.

In his apology earlier this week, Mr Cosgrave said he “unequivocally” supported Israel’s right to defend itself.

“I understand that what I said, the timing of what I said, and the way it has been presented has caused profound hurt to many,” he said.

“What is needed at this time is compassion, and I did not convey that. Web Summit has a long history of partnership with Israel and its tech firms, and I am deeply regretful that those friends were hurt by any of what I said,” he said.

“Like so many figures globally, I also believe that, in defending itself, Israel should adhere to international law and the Geneva conventions,” he said.

“My aim is and always has been to strive for peace. Ultimately, I hope with all my heart that this can be achieved,” he said.

Mr Cosgrave said he wanted to reiterate that he unreservedly condemned Hamas’ “evil, disgusting and monstrous October 7 attack”.

“I also call for the unconditional release of all hostages. As a parent, I sympathise deeply with the families of the victims of this appalling act, and mourn for all the innocent lives lost in this and other wars,” he said.

“I have always been anti-war and pro-international law. It is precisely at our darkest moments that we must try to uphold the principles that make us civilised,” he said.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times