Friday 9 December 2016

Adrian Weckler in Lisbon: Wifi working as Web Summit in Lisbon makes a connection

Published 09/11/2016 | 02:30

Paddy Cosgrave
Paddy Cosgrave

"It was the mobile, not the wifi." That was the message Paddy Cosgrave had for journalists asking about the first day's on-stage snafu that temporarily saw the Web Summit founder flounder when attempting a live demo.

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What happened, Mr Cosgrave said, was that his phone was connected to a weak mobile signal and not the conference wifi. Despite replays of the presentation appearing to show a wifi signal present on the phone's screen, there is little doubt that the only ones really interested in a wifi glitch at the Web Summit are a still-narky populace back home in Ireland.

This was pretty clear by the torrents of schadenfreude on social media platforms on Monday evening, with responses ranging from Nelson Muntz guffaws to spitting glee.

In truth, few others seemed too bothered by the whole thing. Instead, the main focus of the Web Summit's second day was around a few dozen interesting talks, ranging from ethics in the development of robots to next-generation social platforms and whether the media can survive.

There was even some real news, too. The EU Science Commissioner, Carlos Moedas, told this newspaper that he "couldn't answer" as to whether researchers in the North might see access to grants cut off because of Brexit. Under the Horizon 2020 program, €80bn in research funding has been pledged. That's potentially a big blow to some urgent research currently under way.

Also discussing Brexit was the chief executive of one of the world's biggest advertising companies, Publicis's Maurice Levy. He said that many of Publicis's corporate clients were now openly wondering about moving their headquarters away from Britain to other European countries. He also said that British firms could see a wave of acquisitions because of the weaker pound.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Elsewhere, stars of screen and sport wafted around, playing at being start-up executives. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whom readers would recognise from the films 'Inception' or 'Batman', held court to explain why his start-up, Hitrecord may save the music industry. Brazilian and ex-Barcelona footballer Ronaldinho was also on hand, as was Portuguese superstar Luis Figo, to explain why footballers can make good entrepreneurs.

Still, who are we kidding? For many Irish people, the pain of Lisbon replacing Dublin still hangs in the air whenever Web Summit is mentioned. It's a digital Saipan.

For some of the conference's top draws who experienced both cities, the change to Lisbon has been mixed. "Dublin had a cosiness to it which is a little bit lost in Lisbon," said Mike Schroepfer, chief technology officer for Facebook and one of the event's star speakers.

"But this venue is better. And not trekking through mud is great."

Mr Schroepfer's take on the venue was widely echoed by other tech executives. While the RDS has a charm to it, the Lisbon set-up is a proper, linear mega-conference venue that is easy to get around. The main stage area alone, in the Meo Arena, holds 15,000 people.

But as Mr Cosgrave said in his opening remarks yesterday, this makes connecting online "a huge challenge".

Ronaldinho and Luis Figo
Ronaldinho and Luis Figo

Paddy Cosgrave-on-tour has lost none of his characteristic ability to capture and hold the attention of the tech universe. He managed to ring the closing bell for New York's technology-focused Nasdaq stock exchange remotely from Lisbon, making it a fourth consecutive year for Web Summit.

Irish Independent

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