Oh my, that was a controversial couple of days.
In case you were sitting under a rock for the last couple of week, the Web Summit took place in Dublin last week amid much fanfare and criticism. In all honesty, I enjoyed every minute of it – but it wasn’t without its shortcomings.
The content on offer was incredible. All of it. This is where the summit shines, and where it has always impressed. There were appearances from the founders of Tinder, Instagram, and Pixar to name just a few digital powerhouses. Exhibit stands from juggernauts like Facebook profiled the social network’s efforts to deliver wifi to developing nations. They really should have been brought in to fix the wifi problem at the RDS – even with a third party providing the wifi this year, it was often slower than dial up of yesteryear. Bill Ford (yes, Ford) shared some words about the intersection between the automotive and technology industry. Audi showed off their self driving car. I tried out the Oculus Rift a couple of times – it is incredible. Virtual reality is here to stay – it is not just for video games. There was a child sized robot called Pepper that understands and responds to human emotions. This was absolutely a conference showcasing the future of the technology world, and it delivered; all in all there was a great atmosphere and buzz, because this felt like a place where people who are focused on succeeding are meeting other people who are doing exactly that.
Unfortunately, the event felt marred by the toddler tirade that was taking place all over the media between Web Summit and the Irish Government. Email threads being released publicly. The Sharon Ní Bheoláin interview with Daire Hickey. Paddy Cosgrave pulling out of a scheduled TV appearance with the state broadcaster last minute. The mention that “hush money” should be returned to the government. It all felt just a bit handbags at dawn. The media room was littered with talks about it like school children gossiping about a fight that just took place out in the school yard – “Did you hear Paddy’s rant this morning?”, “Did you see that interview?” – it overshadowed things a bit.
The event is over now though. It was a success once again. It is moving to Lisbon for the next three years. Paddy and the gang hope to come back – and I think we should welcome them when they do. After all, they won’t have these sheep over in Lisbon:
Hopefully some of the great start-ups that got the chance to exhibit were able to build some useful contacts. One in particular caught my eye – The Bikebox Club. Think subscription box service, but for cyclists. It’s run by some great Cork lads, and it is definitely worth checking out.
One fantastic cause that Paddy was championing at the Summit was a campaign to close the gender divide in the technology world. This divide was obvious even from the attendees present, and male speakers dominated the stages because, well, they dominate the technology sector. To help address this, the Web Summit and its associated conferences around the world are offering 10,000 free tickets to women in technology – if you’re interested you can find out more here.
That’s enough rambling for now – I’ll be back next week to tell you a bit about a great cause that I’m working with over the next couple of months. It’s going to be exciting – stay tuned!