Saturday 1 October 2016

Web Summit moves to Lisbon: Five reasons why we shouldn't care that much

Published 24/09/2015 | 10:42

Paddy Cosgrave speaking at the Web Summit in The RDS
Paddy Cosgrave speaking at the Web Summit in The RDS

NEWS that the Web Summit is moving to sunny Lisbon from Dublin should come as no major surprise. And is it such a big deal anyway?

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The news yesterday was greeted with much hand-wringing.

Okay, so any event that brings investment should be welcomed but estimates that it was worth €100m to the local economy seem high.

It was quite obvious from the outset that the Summit owners, Paddy Cosgrave and co, were always going to ditch Dublin for a bigger venue.

So here are a number of reasons why it's not the end of the world.

1. Who will really miss it: Techies, taxi drivers and hoteliers. Okay, that might seem a little cynical but it's more or less true - pub and restaurant owers too. Oh, and the media. Yes, it was always an interesting event to cover. But outside of this relatively small group of people not too many will miss it. 

It would be a shame, though, if smaller summits/start-up events took a similar view and decided not to go ahead with conference plans.

Dublin's Grand Canal area has now been well-established as a technology hub and its further development is something we should be encouraging, and not not just for multinationals. Long-term, joined up thinking about ways to leverage this and boost local businesses is a better strategy - the Web Summit annual conference, glamorous as it it/was, was a bonus though.

2. No of deals done: Several high profile companies have set up in Dublin in the aftermath of visiting the Web Summit.

Dropbox is one and Twitter is another. Jack Dorsey first came to the Web Summit in 2010. A year later, Twitter announced its Dublin office where it employs hundreds of people.

And some local businesses have also raised funding.

Arguably, though, none of this investment would have come to our shores were it not for the 12.5pc corporation tax. And that isn't about to change any time soon.

3. Timing: The Web Summit was born when the country was still in bailout mode and it brought positivity and optimism with it. The Irish economy is in a much better place now - and although no one would argue that the investment it has brought over the past few years was welcome, in some ways we may have outgrown it too and bringing investment here is the way to go long-term.

4. Legacy: More than 30,000 people will attend the Web Summit in the RDS next November. They will be missed over the next three years, at least.  While problems with infrastructure have been blamed for the decision to move,  hotels were also criticised for hiking prices during the event - so maybe the move will focus some minds.

Like in the technology industry, it's the long-term prospects we need to look out for in hospitality too. We've learned a hard lesson in the recent past on the importance of cost competitiveness and that it takes a long time to entice tourists back once they've been burnt.

5. The future: The founders of the Web Summit have been clever enough not to turn their backs on a return to Ireland in the future. In fact, one of the Summit's charms was that it was held in Dublin - one of the most intimate capitals in Europe. This is something that will be hard to capture in another capital, including Lisbon. Who knows, maybe the lads will realise that while faraway hills are greener, a move back to the Summit's spiritual home is the best move long-term.

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