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WebSummit – Dreams, passion and reality

By Tim Fuell - November 5, 2014

If you ever wondered whether the internet of things is a realistic proposition, just take a look at WebSummit taking place in Ireland at the moment. There you can find a digital application for almost everything. Things that link with the internet even a tech-geek like me had never contemplated. 22,000 tech-heads have descended on Dublin for the three-day event (Tuesday to Thursday) – a mixture of conference, exhibition and pitchfest – and the buzz of enthusiasm, passion and entrepreneurship is certainly in the air. It’s a big thing too. Bloomberg described it as the “Davos for Geeks”. On the opening day the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny even rang the NASDAQ opening bell from the event via a live feed that also played out in New York’s time Square. Over 100 nationalities are represented as attendees but also as exhibitors such is the power of those here who may just be the magic investors.

The event itself is an example of Irish entrepreneurship. The idea came about amongst a small group of friends with founder Paddy Cosgrave still opening up the main stage of the event every day, from an informal meet-up of 450 members of the Dublin tech community in Autumn 2010 it is now a global phenomenon.

WebSummit 2014 PitchingIt’s a broad bunch too. Speakers include the leaders in tech and digital as well as U2’s Bono and Eva Longoria. There is a Digital Marketing Summit featuring advertising, digital media and the importance of mobile, Builders Summit – where you can listen to insight from the leading names in big data and innovative applications, an Enterprise Summit where the emphasis is on entrepreneurial success, A Machine Summit (including Audi talking about piloted driving) as well as a Music & Sport Summit stage where footballer Rio Ferdinand even has an interview spot and a Food Summit where Man Vs Food’s Adam Richman explains how tech is even essential in the culinary arena. Aside from that there are also 4 stages giving 200 shortlisted start-ups the chance to pitch their business idea in front of a panel of judges including investors, media and attendees. On top of all that there are hundreds of individual start-ups at early launch stage, alpha and beta all touting their wares, trying to spread their message, attract users and some of those magical investors.

The RDS - WebSummit 2014The Royal Dublin Society (RDS) is an eclectic mix of venues, old and new that caters well for the swell of people from such a broad base of backgrounds. There are of course many dreamers with ideas that may never make practical application, but the networking done at these events, the knowledge gained means there is some certainty that those in Dublin for these three days will go on to make an impact – however small – on the future of technology and indeed the world.

If proof was needed that those dreams and ideas may succeed, one of the speakers on the opening day was Drew Houston – founder of the Billion US$ file storage company Dropbox. That stemmed from an idea he had whilst in his college dormitory:Drew Houston - WebSummit 2014

“I forgot my thumbdrive. It drove me stupid” he says. From there he went to y-combinator and sourced funding and support that helped build the company to where it is, but not before he turned down a personal approach to buy the embryonic company from Apple’s Steve Jobs.

“We didn’t talk numbers. A friend had given me some advice ‘If you don’t want to sell your company, don’t talk about selling your company’ I didn’t. So we didn’t”

Houston’s tips for the many at WebSummit and many more further afield looking to make their project happen?

“Find something you are obsessed with. Success comes from solving problems you are obsessed with”

It certainly is an inspiring space and place and if you needed re-assurance as to the state of the digital, creative, technology sector, it is proof it is very much alive and set for a strong future.