Web Summit replacement is now needed

Last week it appeared that large parts of the Irish media had a collective meltdown when a conference organising company decided to up sticks and leave Dublin for Lisbon.

I thought for a while someone had dug the Book of Kells out of Trinity College and secreted it to Siberia in a duffle bag.

Instead, it was news that the company behind the Web Summit were taking its annual technology jamboree to Portugal in 2016.

Firstly, best of luck to Paddy Cosgrave and his business in any decisions taken. With a relatively small team he thought up the idea of an annual IT-centric conference that would leverage Ireland’s position as a leading technology platform.

With savvy media skills he grew the event to be profitable by attracting a combination of wannabe and actual IT entrepeneurs to Dublin for a mixture of entertainment and networking that won the support and backing of many all the way up to the Taoiseach’s office.

It is strange, however, to present the departure of the Web Summit to Lisbon as an indication of a collective system failure of Irish policymaking.

I suspect it was something far more down to earth. Lisbon is probably offering inducements to attract a conference of this type while hotels and restaurants in Dublin are obviously fuller and more expensive amid a resurgent Irish economy.

It remains a fact, however, that blue-chip global IT companies remain wedded to Ireland and continue to invest here. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Intel and Microsoft are just a few of the companies that have high asset intensity in the Republic.

It is true, too, that organising an annual conference that leverages the goodwill of a Government and its agencies while tapping in to the leaders of IT in Ireland is a sensible and highly commercial opportunity.

When I heard Web Summit was leaving Ireland my first thought was Opportunity Knocks.

What you need is an entrepreneur with a bit of vision to do this;

(1) launch Technology 2016, a new three-day IT event in Dublin that connects entrepeneurs with each other and the financial investment community;

(2) call the Taoiseach’s office. He gave his time free to ‘high-five’ Elon Musk and others at previous events. I bet he steps out for someone who puts together a coherent offering for 2016. With his backing expect the IDA and Enterprise Ireland to follow suit;

(3) ping an email to the RDS. While they remain stoic amid the news about the Web Summit it’s likely they are champing at the bit to back an alternative and prove their location is ideal for such a gig;

(4) call the chief executive of Dalata, the hotel group with thousands of beds in Dublin. While they are busier than last year, November remains a quiet month and a scale deal for bedrooms to house visiting IT types is an attractive piece of business, and;

(5) call the airlines serving Dublin and offer one of them the opportunity to be an Airline Partner for Technology 2016. After all, Dublin has more direct daily connections with North America, the Middle East and Europe than Lisbon does, so the scope to fly people in is significant.

Here is another idea. Goodbody Stockbrokers has its HQ across the road from the RDS. We have an executive suite that seats 150 and has 10 rooms for one-on-one investor meetings.

In addition, we do business every week with over 100 institutional investors around the world that back technology companies.

We’ll make those facilities available for free to anyone who puts together a coherent plan for Technology 2016 in Dublin and not Lisbon. Competition, don’t you love it?

Joe Gill is Director of Corporate Broking with Goodbody Stockbrokers. His views are personal.


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