Interview: Paddy Cosgrave and the Birth of a Summit

Thursdays are a traditional night out in Palo Alto and Paddy Cosgrave, in accordance with local custom, was out sharing a few late night brews with some of the early stage people from Facebook. One of his companions turned to him and according to Paddy asked him to come to “this great breakfast networking and talk that begins at 7 AM.” Paddy was taken aback that his friends who had been at Facebook since pretty much the start and who were incredibly wealthy and successful would still want to get up at that hour of the morning after being out so late at night.

As Paddy tells the story, “I said, ‘Are you mad, why do you want to do that?’ And he cut me straight down and said, ‘Paddy, Silicon Valley doesn’t work because nerds sit behind computer screens 24/7. It works because those nerds are occasionally drawn together by great events and great speakers. It’s at these events you meet new employees. It’s where you meet new investors. It’s where you discover new ideas from new conversations you’ve started and it’s where you find the future value that you’re going to start new companies with. That’s the eco-system, that’s how it all works.’”

Later, when Paddy got back to Ireland, he went to Trinity College Dublin to visit with his little sister Anna who was studying there and have coffee. He says, “We were just catching up and she said to me, ‘The Internet is so big these days: wouldn’t it be great if you had some of the big internet names come and talk to the student society.’ I thought it was a crazy idea, but then it was as if a lightbulb went on over my head.” The idea for the first of the Dublin Web Summits was born.

“I just e-mailed some guys I knew,” recounts Paddy, “and got hold of Jimmy Wales who set up Wikipedia and Tim Draper who is this kind of iconic VC from Silicon Valley and pitched to them, ‘Do you want to come to Trinity, speak to some students and also speak to the wider Irish tech community. We don’t get guys like you very much, it’s an interesting country and there is a lot going on and we’ll look after you.’ It just built from there. It started on a whim really.”

The fourth Dublin Web Summit, #dws4, which takes place on the 28th and 29th of October, is a deliberately broad-based event as a major idea of Paddy’s is to bring people together from different areas of interest and specialities who perhaps would have not met otherwise.

Paddy says, “The guiding philosophy that I set the Dublin Web Summit up on was that suits pay and scruffy startups don’t. We have given out close to two hundred tickets at no cost and well below cost, all across Ireland. The were given out through universities, through the incubation centres, through Enterprise Ireland, and so on.

“The Dublin Web Summit has evolved. We have started the Spark of Genius competition which has given exposure to some fantastic Irish startups and provides the winners with at €30,000 worth of professional services. Legal fees and accountancy fees can sometimes be very high for startups relative to their budget.

“Also, VCs don’t always get to see what is going on in Ireland, so this time around we have Atomico, who have an investment fund in excess €100 million and are going to be holding an ‘open office’ throughout the day where people can come and pitch ideas and ask for advice.”

But there has also been a return to the roots of his original inspiration this time around as well.

“For a lot of people, listening to the speakers is the most important thing, and for others it is networking. It is going to be an amazing opportunity to mingle with six hundred of the key influencers in the whole tech eco-system in Ireland and another fifty or sixty international influencers.

“At the first summits, we gave loads of inspiration, and it’s fantastic to hear these guys’ stories, but people didn’t leave with a lot of practical advice. So, at this [Dublin] Web Summit there is going to be fifty master classes delivered over the course of the entire day. There are different streams so people can pick and choose. We have real entrepreneurs who have been successful giving some of those. A lot of them are Irish which is really important for local people to be able to relate to.

“There’s a digital media market one and a sales one and a not-for-profit one which is about fundraising and mobilising volunteers. There’s a full spectrum of insider ideas which we didn’t do before.”

Technology Voice will have a reporter present at the Dublin Web Summit on the Friday courtesy of a press pass. If there are any aspects of the event that you would like us to focus on or highlight. Let us know and we will see what we can do.

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