A sense of desperation and hope filled the RDS last week as over 42,000 people attended the Web Summit 2015.
For the price of almost €2,000, eager start-ups were awarded with small, claustrophobic stalls and dodgy Wi-Fi.
The Web Summit can make or break start-ups with over 1,000 investors at the event. It attracts the best and most intelligent people in the tech industry from across the world, but it received a lot of negative press.
The fact that the Summit was leaving for Lisbon overshadowed the event itself. People were angry and wanted to know why they were leaving Dublin. Sharon Ní Bheoláin from RTÉ tore the co-founder of the Web Summit, Daire Hickey, apart on air, demanding to know the reasoning behind the departure. The media seemed enthralled in this, rather than talking about the event itself.
Co-Founder Paddy Cosgrave, was rather irritating throughout the event. He pulled out from doing the RTÉ interview with Sharon and from The Late Late show. I can’t ignore that he’s an intelligent man taking the event from a few hundred to thousands, but I don’t have to like him. He was one of the few men not in a suit and claimed on the centre stage that he was wearing a warm Aran sweater for his fiancé and “because that’s the kind of hero I am,” he declared. His bouncy hair and Trinity accent annoyed me for no good reason, but it’s clear to all that Cosgrave needs to get over himself.
The price of food at the Web Summit led to it being dubbed as #foodgate on Twitter. People complained of paying €20 for a burger, while it emerged that suppliers were paid €8.
It also emerged that some speakers weren’t getting paid to talk at the Summit. It makes you wonder how much money Cosgrave and co. take away from the event.
While the event had much to complain about, tech isn’t the place to be safe or modest and many start-ups and talks left me stunned. Visual and augmented reality were the stars of the event as start-ups created a 3-D interactive world that showed that video is the future.
Some of my favourite start-ups included Oombrella, ‘the smart umbrella that you won’t forget’. The smart umbrella comes with an app that sends you weather alerts letting you know if you should bring your umbrella or not. It also has a ‘forget me not’ alert that sends an alert to your phone if you leave it behind.
Another interesting start-up was ‘Cuckuu’, an app that allows you to share alarms with your friends and motivate each other to get up. Through games, award systems and videos, your mornings can become ‘more fun’.
The kids from CoderDojo also showcased their skills and their ability to code and develop apps at the Summit. CoderDojo is a volunteer based project throughout the world that teaches children aged between 7-17 the importance of computing and coding.
One of the most bizzare things at the event was the number of social media websites for animals. One CEO told me that it’s a great way to meet shy cats and dogs for yours to hang out with. These people spent €2,000 to showcase at the event.
The event had many remarkable speakers but my favourite was the closing talk with Ed Catmull, the founder of Pixar. The talk was set up like a fire-side talk, with the centre stage filled to capacity. The buzz of the event was slowly fading as people hushed to hear how the legend managed both Pixar and Disney at the same time. It was as if the magic of Pixar was brought to life as 20 years of Pixar showed on the big screen.
Cosgrave’s final remarks was an attempt to be gracious as he made sincere pitches for two campaigns ‘Walk4Eva’ and an event which aims to bring 10,000 women entrepreneurs together.
In regards to the Web Summit heading to Lisbon he said: “Dublin will always be in our hearts. We’re leaving, but hope to come back in the future.”
It’s no doubt that the Web Summit and perhaps Cosgrave himself have become too big for Ireland, but the fact that our Taoiseach didn’t even attend the event shows the strained relations.
The Web Summit had the opportunity to make Ireland innovative and the future for start-ups, so hopefully it will return and realise that Ireland isn’t the source of all of their problems.
By Catherine Devine
Images and Videos by Catherine Devine