Monday 17 December 2018

Paddy Cosgrave wants to stop 'trolling the establishment' in Ireland

Paddy Cosgrave at MoneyConf. Photo: Adrian Weckler
Paddy Cosgrave at MoneyConf. Photo: Adrian Weckler
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

“I‘ve very little left to troll the establishment about in Ireland.”

So said Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave today at Moneyconf, the 5,000-strong financial technology conference being held by the Web Summit company in Dublin’s RDS.

But there’s always material.

Asked whether he might bring up the topic of homelessness with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar when he hosts him at the conference on Wednesday morning, Cosgrave tried to play it straight before letting some feelings out.

“Today my primary focus is fintech,” he said. “And not fire sales happening right now.”

Another reporter’s question began but was cut off.

“Check the property register to look at those fire sales,” continued Cosgrave, the bit between his teeth. “Those are unusual. Very worrying. Actually, I hope they’re not fire sales, I just hope it’s low level fraud.”

He then went on to name a few of the individual properties possible sold under “fire sale” or “low level fraud” conditions. (Defamation law prevents us from publishing the addresses of the properties identified.)

Cosgrave was less expansive on his own reported venture capital fund plans. According to a US corporate filing, he wants to raise $50m in venture capital, presumably to take advantage of his exposure to so many promising startups he sees passing through his various conferences.

“Under SEC regulations I can’t comment on that at this time,” he said.

The fund, to be called the ”Amaranthine Fund”, appears to be the product of Amaranthine Partners, a San Francisco company set up to “connect, support and invest in the world’s top technologists through the f.ounders platform”.

(An amaranth is an imaginary, undying flower.)

Former Goldman Sachs executive Patrick Murphy and Cosgrave’s Web Summit co-founder, David Kelly, are listed as the chiefs of Amaranthine Partners. There are no investors listed.

As for “the f.ounders platform” mentioned in the company’s description, f.ounders (that’s not a typo) is the Web Summit’s parallel event held for company CEOs, founders and other bigwigs. It involves dinners and meetups, often in palatial surroundings, after the Web Summit has finished. Paddy Cosgrave sits atop the organisation.

Again, Cosgrave wouldn’t be drawn on his immediate plans or intentions as an investor.

“We’ve always essentially been investing in startups,” he said. “We’ve put them in a room with great investors and journalists and bigger companies that have been interested in using the products that they offer, partnering with them or acquiring them. We’ve done that over the last seven years… But my primary focus is on running Web Summit.”

However, Cosgrave was happy to talk about potential future homes for the Web Summit, none of which include Ireland.

He spoke against the backdrop of Valencia reportedly offering a package valued at €18m per year to host it there in future.

“Our home is Lisbon and that may remain far into the future,” he said. “But we’re taking our time to consider what Germany and France and Italy and Spain and the British have to offer, along with the Portugueses. It’s true that in Valencia, the local govt there have offered a package of €17.6m a year. The full package will include the federal government of Spain itself. But there are three cities [we’re looking at] in Spain. So until we shortlist one of those three cities, the actual government of Spain will not yet become involved.”

Nevertheless, he said, ”the total figure will probably be twice what Ireland willing to to pay to host the Rugby World Cup”.

This obviously leaves Ireland out of the running. Not that it was ever in the running to host the Web Summit again, which now has around 60,000 attendees, making it far too big for any Irish conferencing venue.

Even still, Cosgrave threw Ireland some tidbits.

“It’s great to be back,” he said. “MoneyConf is here for the foreseeable future. Maybe this will be the first of a number of conferences that we do here. Dublin is fantastic for an event of up to about 20,000 people. I think there’s a huge opportunity for the RDS, in particular, to become a more regular venue for events in the technology and science space. Ireland has an opportunity to become a venue for much larger events. To do that they need a convention centre that’s much bigger. Milan, for example, is not that much bigger than Dublin has 110 times more venue space. That’s quite a substantial vector. It wouldn’t take much to build a venue that would cater to 40,000 or 50,000 people in this city. There's lots of available land around the port and elsewhere.”

Maybe an early shout for his when-the-SEC-allows-discussion-about-it Amaranthine Fund? It’s doubtful.

As for the WiFi, there’s been no problem.

This may be down to the large number of people in suits, rather than the t-shirted, backpack-wielding bandwidth hogs found at the Web Summit.

One person was even spotted using a BlackBerry.

Online Editors

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business