In front of a packed RDS and flanked by Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave, Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s plea to the diaspora chimed loud and clear before the ceremonial ringing of the Nasdaq Bell: "Hear the clarion call and be ready at least to return."
His references to Ireland as the best small country in the world in which to do business were interspersed with a nodding head as Cosgrave heaped praise on the Taoiseach and the Government for embracing the tech event, now in its fourth year.
While Enda’s thoughtful bobbing remained relatively constant throughout the lavish praise he enjoyed — up and down at almost the same frequency as the venue’s troublesome wifi reception — it reached a peak as the embattled Taoiseach was hailed as a visionary leader.
“I don’t cut my hair, I don’t wear proper clothes, and it takes a visionary politician to decide he’s going to take a punt on somebody who shows up to meetings in a T-shirt, but I’d just like to thank the Taoiseach for all his support over the years so far and into the future,” Cosgrave said.
The Taoiseach’s call to the exiled Irish was to join the 20,000 or so attendees who travelled to Dublin for the summit; more than 85% came from overseas.
The returning Irish, he said, were the risk-takers that would establish businesses and help the economy grow even further, the whole country pulling together.
If it was all rosy in Enda’s economic garden, the wifi was proving a little more worrisome for Cosgrave who, for at least a third time, asked the hordes of entrepreneurs, investors, media, and assorted others if their internet problems had been rectified — to which the answer was repeatedly a resounding ‘No’.
The sight of hundreds of arms raised aloft in the main hall signalled continued trouble and further embarrassment to the operators of the RDS who had made assurances the issue was resolved. And Cosgrave was not amused.
“We have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to get the wifi working, it’s incredibly disappointing,” Cosgrave said of the external fault which was seemingly out of the RDS operators’ control.
He later encouraged those in attendance to write letters to the RDS expressing their dissatisfaction with the internet connectivity and imploring the summit be allowed run the network at next year’s event.
The outage had echoes of last year’s Web Summit which endured shortages of another precious commodity — and one particularly close to Enda’s heart — when water restrictions were put in place across Dublin as the world’s tech leaders descended on the event.
Where water threatened the success of last year’s gathering, fire nearly derailed the latest summit before it ever got going as Dublin City Fire Brigade was called to the rescue of dozens of technological heavyweights when a chimney fire erupted in Cosgrave’s home on Monday evening.
Cosgrave said that on Monday night, “about 50 tech CEOs came to my house for a quick whiskey before we went to the Guinness Storehouse and, unfortunately, the flue in my chimney seized up and quite rapidly started to fill with smoke.
“Eventually Phil Libin, the CEO of Evernote, led an emergency evacuation of my house as the Dublin Fire Brigade arrived to put out the fire... thankfully about 50 tech CEOs are still alive today.”
While many people tweeted their disappointment at the patchy wifi service at Europe’s biggest technology event, one major Irish brand made light of the situation.
“Came for the free wifi/ Guinness,” Guinness Ireland tweeted as the service continued to crash for thousands of attendees. They included an image of a wifi symbol — three black bars topped with a white head. It has been hailed as an example of genius real-time marketing by social media users.
- From among 30 shortlisted finalists, Love & Robots has beaten stiff competition to win the ESB Spark of Genius Award. Love & Robots is a design platform, which, in collaboration with a team of designers, makes unique 3D printed items for its customers.
They received a cash prize of €25,000, plus a fund of services to see them through their start-up phase.
TenderScout, a tool, which aims to make companies more successful, and hearing protection service, Restored Hearing were runners up.
- A six-sided LED screen is also turning heads at the RDS. The cubical display by CreativeLED made its European debut at the summit.
“It is fantastic that the organisers are supporting an Irish start-up,” said MD of CreativeLED Larry O’Connor. creativeled.net
- Camara Technology are appealing for 24,000 donations of IT equipment during the Web Summit.
They will use the donated computers to improve the quality of education services and deliver 21st century skills in disadvantaged communities around the world.
They will be accepting unwanted equipment at their stand until Thursday. camara.org
- PCH, the company that designs custom manufacturing solutions for start-ups and Fortune 500 companies have announced the winners of Ireland’s first multi-disciplinary design and hardware hackathon.
Cash Up received first prize for their prototype of a connected cash register for automated cash management.
They received €1,500 in funding, sponsored by AIB and consulting from Each&Other to perfect their designs, as well as three tickets to this year’s summit.
City+ received second place for their bicycle- powered connected sensor. The team received €1,000 in cash and an Autodesk Licence.
PillPal came in third with their development of a smart pill box to tackle medical non-compliance.
They received €500 to aid in the development of their project.
Among the other prototypes developed at the weekend were a sensor to monitor the shelf life of products and a new wearable sensor to monitor air quality.
- Today’s highlights: More titans of the global tech scene take to the stage with the likes of Twitter’s president of global revenue Adam Bain due on the main stage shortly after 10am.
Before him, homegrown talent in the form of former RTÉ journalist and founder of news agency Storyful Mark Little discusses the role of social media in modern reporting alongside luminaries from Time magazine and technology magazine Wired.
Later in the morning Urs Holze of Google charts the company’s remarkable growth.
Celebrities spotters can look out for English actress Lily Cole, skateboarder Tony Hawk and British food critic Tom Parker Bowles.
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