Sunday 25 September 2016

Forget the wifi and the what-ifs, Forbes says Hickey's the real deal

Published 09/01/2016 | 02:30

Hollywood actress Eva Longoria at the Web Summit at the RDS.
Hollywood actress Eva Longoria at the Web Summit at the RDS.
Bono at Web Summit
Daire Hickey

The Web Summit might be moving from Dublin to Lisbon, but its co-founder, Daire Hickey, has been singled out as one of the most talented young people in the world.

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On Tuesday, Forbes released its annual "30 Under 30" list, which highlights the best and brightest young talent across a whole host of categories. Mr Hickey was on it.

He got the nod in the 'media' section - where he is praised for his work in establishing the Web Summit as well an invite-only company founders' conference called F.ounders.

His inclusion in the Forbes is a major coup for a man who in the last ten years has been president of the University Philosophy Society (The Phil) in Trinity, a researcher with RTÉ, a journalist with TheJournal.ie, and then went on to co-founded the two biggest tech conferences the country has ever seen.

Mr Hickey presided over The Phil from 2006 to 2007 - it might be literally a talking shop, but it's proud to boast Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett among its past members.

The nod from Forbes means Hickey is now following those predecessors onto the world stage.

Its not something he has ever shied away from.

Writing in the Irish Independent in March 2014 Mr Hickey said that the one characteristic that was missing from Irish founders of start-ups was ambition.

"The typical Irish start-up may dream of a billion-dollar exit. But so many are all too happy to settle. They settle when it comes to advice. They settle when it comes to investment. They settle when it comes to product," Mr Hickey wrote.

Hickey, clearly, has never been happy to settle.

F.ounders was the brainchild of his partner, Paddy Cosgrave. Mr Cosgrave got in touch with the Trinity graduate six weeks prior to the first F.ounders event saying that he'd convinced the entrepreneuers behind Skype, YouTube and Twitter to come to Dublin.

All that left was to organise an actual programme. They might well have fallen on their faces, but the pair along with former asset manager David Kelly, managed to pull off an event that garnered rave reviews.

Exclusivity has helped F.ounders become one of the most sought after invites in the business world.

With just 150 attendees and the likes of Bono and The Edge joining the founders of the biggest tech companies in the world, the cache is unmatched - even the prestigious World Economic Forum at Davos counts attendees in the thousands rather than the hundreds.

Paddy Cosgrave was long the better known face, and curley mop, of the Web Summit. But Hickey hit headlines last year thanks to a tough interview with RTÉ's Sharon Ní Bheoláin after details emerged about the list of demands made by the Web Summit organisers to the Irish Government before they decided to up-sticks to Portugal.

The Six One News split viewers. Hickey was forced to give an account of himself as Sharon Ní Bheoláin repeatedly pressed him on whether the Web Summit should end a tit-for-tat feud that had broken out with the Government.

"Is it not rather pointless to engage in this kind of bitter, broadside at this point? Why not let bygones be bygones, the Government has wished you well," she asked?

Mr Hickey said that the "bitter" engagement with the Government was simply as a result of frustration from his co-founder Paddy Cosgrave.

Hickey stood behind claims that the event was moving away for factors that included poor public transport and exploitation by the hotel industry.

The dispute between the Government and the Web Summit probably climaxed at the point where Mr Hickey's co-founder described the funding offered by the Government as "hush money".

The row might have been unseemly, and ulimately pointless, but for a third year in a row it made the Web Summit the biggest story in town during much of November.

As former 'Phil' member Oscar Wilde pointed out, that kind of publicity is never bad.

Last year's controversies couldn't mask the success of the Web Summit, and its young team of entrepreneurs.

From a standing start five years ago - in the absolute pit of the recession - their event had already become iconic and un-ignorable.

That scale of achievement, ultimately, is is what gets the attention of people like Forbes. Last year Web Summit events attracted over 42,000 attendees. It and F.ounders are only two of the events in the Web Summit organisers' portfolio that also includes 'Rise' in Hong Kong.

Last week Hickey described his inclusion amongst 600 enterprising young people as 'awesome'.

Its actually pretty hard to argue with that.

Irish Independent

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