So, how will the tech ecosystem in Ireland be affected by the loss of Web Summit? The FT reporter asked me on the phone last Thursday morning. I digested the question a moment as I paced the floor of my office. Will there be less funding for startups because Web Summit has moved away? Will our companies lose customers or their competitive edge? Will multinationals move their R&D teams out of Ireland? Nope, I thought. I couldn’t see any of these things happening. “The ecosystem won’t be affected at all” came my black and white answer, but already my brain was seeing color.
The Web Summit announcement was not a surprise to many of us. What surprised me was the public outcry and sense of loss that came with it. You’d think our best companies like Teamwork, Intercom, Movidius and CarTrawler were forsaking us for Lisbon, but they’re not. They’re staying right here in Ireland, despite a tax system that does little to support them. Ah. If only we could drum up a similar level of public outcry about taxes for indigenous tech companies!
Web Summit is a 3 day conference that gave us 5 great years, lets say all in all 20 great days, as the city at the center of the tech universe. Would I like 20 more days? Sure. But do we need that once a year global conference to keep our own tech economy moving forward and keep us focused on building great companies out of Ireland? No we don’t. We already have what it takes to attract investors, media and others here all year long, so lets just get at it.
When this time last year someone suggested to me that Web Summit was the “Hail Mary” I needed to kick start my work in Dublin I was confused by the comment and remain so today. It’s a terrible thing if we’re relying on a conference to safeguard the reputation of our industry.
Whether they’ve attended Web Summit or not, most VCs and serial entrepreneurs in the US, for one, still think Ireland is a tax haven for multinationals and little else. Now, that’s the kind of reputation we need to spend lots of time and money changing.
So please, lets wish Web Summit well and get back to focusing on the priorities. We’re already working hard, sharing a positive attitude and creating thousands of great startups out of Dublin. Lets focus on that and how to secure Dublin’s future as a global tech hub, year in and year out. Things like a strong angel investor community, unique collaborations between our multinationals and our startups, a tax system that supports our growing entrepreneurial culture, a recognition of the value of failure, and a belief in our ability to grow global companies. With these core elements in place, the rest becomes icing on the cake.
There are already multiple plans afoot to “fill the void” left by Web Summit. I recognize the importance of a conference of its size to the local economy and will be very supportive of these initiatives. But my real focus is on a complimentary and different set of priorities.
By the way, it looks like the only direct flights from the US to Lisbon are through Newark, NJ and Miami so we could still invite attendees to a meeting or two en route in Dublin.
Don’t Forget: Startups+Friends #1stFriBrekkie is this Friday, October 2nd 8-10am. Register here!