Tuesday 25 July 2017

Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave considers return to Dublin with new financial tech conference

Expansion at Web Summit's Dublin office as 40 new jobs announced

Paddy Cosgrave
Paddy Cosgrave
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Paddy Cosgrave is considering a return to Dublin with a financial technology and payments conference.

The Web Summit founder, whose Dublin headquarters is to expand by another 40 jobs this year, said that the company’s Moneyconf conference, currently based in Madrid, is likely to move to another city shortly.

“Moneyconf is coming towards the end for Madrid,” he told Independent.ie. “We’re now looking at other cities, including Edinburgh, Paris and Dublin.”

The conference, previously held in Belfast, is smaller than the Web Summit, which attracted 53,000 people in Lisbon last November. It is also smaller than Collision, Cosgrave’s New Orleans-based tech event which is expected to see 20,000 attendees next month.

But holding it in Dublin would mark a new phase in the relationship between Mr Cosgrave and Irish authorities.

The move comes as the Web Summit announced 40 new jobs for its Dublin office, including a new position for an Irish government affairs manager. This role, Mr Cosgrave said, will be “multi-faceted”.

“We’re back working with the Irish government,” he said. “The Web Summit’s most important supporter from the start, by a wide margin, was the IDA. They’re back as one of our partners. There’s a lot of positivity and a lot of change. It’s an interesting time for Ireland and not just because of Brexit.”

Read more: Adrian Weckler analysis: The Web hit that was Lisbon shows Ireland what might have been

Two years ago, tempers flared between Web Summit founders and the Irish government over the decision to relocate the global even to Lisbon. But Mr Cosgrave said that Web Summit conferences are now sought by countries and cities around the world.

“Cities in Europe, Asia and the US are actively pursuing us for larger conferences and also for smaller ones such as Moneyconf,” he said. “My co-founder David [Kelly] dedicates a lot of time travelling around the world.”

Mr Cosgrave said that he is also looking to spin out more individual conferences from the Web Summit.

“Moneyconf came out of Web Summit and is now an invitation-only event for 1,000 stakeholders, including all the interesting startups, a lot of the bigger banks like Goldman Sachs and big payment players such as Alipay and Visa,” he said.

“We’re looking to spin out more of the conferences in Web Summit, which has become a conference of conferences. For example, the largest business of sport conference in Europe is held at the Web Summit.”

The Web Summit’s three year deal with Portugese authorities to host the event in Lisbon is extendable to five years. However, such an extension has not yet been discussed, Mr Cosgrave said.

“We won’t be having that conversation until next year,” he said.

The Web Summit company runs several other global technology events, including Collision in the US, Rise in Hong Kong and MoneyConf in Madrid.

Collision will feature keynote speakers including actor Jessica Alba, musician Wyclef Jean, Chris Sacca of Lowercase Capital and Alexis Ohanian of Reddit.

Mr Cosgrave said that he expects the US conference to almost double in size over the next 12 months.

“By next year, Collision will be larger than South By Southwest, which has about 32,000 attendees,” he said. “It hasn’t been growing in recent years and is a bit stagnant. We have 20,000 this year and I think we’ll leapfrog it next year. Collision is basically the Web Summit mirrored in the US.”

Read more: Web Summit: EU research chief 'can't answer' if large funding sums will continue to flow to Ireland and Britain

Last year the Web Summit registered over 53,000 attendees to Lisbon. Mr Cosgrave said that was double the number that attended the previous Web Summit held in Dublin in 2015. He said that 60,000 attendees are expected to attend the event this year, including tech company CEOs, political leaders and personalities from sports, fashion and music. In 2016, the Web Summit added new elements to the event including the Forum, a gathering of leading political and business leaders, which included Jose Manuel Barroso, former president of the European Commission, Roberto Azevêdo, director general of the WTO and Mogens Lykketoft, president of the United Nations General Assembly.

Mr Cosgrave said that the new jobs being hired for the company’s Dublin headquarters would take the organisation to over 180 people.

The new jobs, which are currently being advertised, are in sales, engineering and policy.

"We figured out how to get a tremendous amount of attendees and now we're getting good at attracting partners and exhibitors, like Mercedes," he said.

“Dublin is a very important part of the Web Summit DNA with our operations continuing to be based in our office in Tramway House. As we continue to expand across the world and to improve the experience of our attendees across our events, we are looking for talented people across a range of disciplines. We want to hear from people who are looking for a unique and interesting opportunity for the next chapter in our growth. Trinity degrees are optional.”

Mr Cosgrave said that the hiring climate in Dublin has changed, with a higher standard of sales professional now available because of the number of tech multinationals working here.

“Two years ago, a lot of the people we were hiring were from startups,” he said. “Now we’re hiring out of Google, Facebook, Salesforce and Oracle. Sometimes the multinationals here come in for criticism but they provide the most amazing sales training resources for other companies.

"Google has invested a huge amount of money in developing and training these people and then companies like ours can just pick them up and they’re basically plug and play.”

He said that competition from multinationals for tech workers was stiff but there are now enough to go around.

“If you have 4,000 sales people on Barrow Street, there are likely to be 40 who will move to work in a startup,” he said.

“We’ve hired people with six or seven years experience from Google and Oracle. They love a change.”

The WebSummit was co-founded by Paddy Cosgrave, journalist Daire Hickey and accountant David Kelly.

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