Wednesday 16 October 2019

Web Summit won't be missed, claims Noonan

Paddy Cosgrave
Paddy Cosgrave

Adrian Weckler, Kevin Doyle and Lise Hand

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has claimed that the Web Summit will not be missed as it departs Dublin - because the city is "chock-a-block with business at the moment".

Lisbon has poached the prestigious event, which has been held in Ireland since its inception in 2010, with politicians there claiming it will provide a €175m economic injection.

A lack of hotels, transportation and suitable venues in Dublin have been the subject of complaints by company chief executive Paddy Cosgrave.

But despite the Government coming under huge political pressure to recover some of the trade that will be lost to Ireland, Mr Noonan bizarrely claimed "I don't think that people will be disappointed".

He said: "Dublin is chock-a-block with business at present. The hotels are full nearly every weekend so I don't think that people will be disappointed. There is still a lot of alternative business I hope."

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton also seemed resigned to the loss, saying said that the summit had "become an international success".

He said the move was "a natural step, the next chapter" in the Web Summit's growth.

"I wish Paddy Cosgrave and the company well. It has been a successful undertaking and has put an Irish company on the map. I welcome that and we will continue participating."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Web Summit had been "a great addition to Ireland's reputation" but it was "an individual choice" that it was moving to Lisbon.

And Tánaiste Joan Burton claimed to be "confident" that the Web Summit "or an equivalent" would return to Ireland in the near future.

The event has grown from 500 attendees in 2010 to the 30,000 who will come to Web Summit at the RDS in November. It is a major fixture on the calendar of tech entrepreneurs and powerful figures from California's Silicon Valley.

According to the conference's organisers, the company is moving its event to Portugal next year because of the difference in infrastructure quality rather than for a better financial subsidy.

Junior Minister and local TD Kevin Humphreys last night said: "The news surrounding the Web Summit is a wake up call. We now need to start planning to win it back to the city."

And the Opposition rounded on the Coalition for failing to secure the future of the prestigious event.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the loss of the "internationally renowned web summit is a hugely embarrassing development for the city and the country".

Mr Martin asked whether the Government could have done more to salvage the situation.

Meanwhile, Portuguese assistant secretary of state for the economy, Leonardo Mathias, said that Lisbon expects to see €175m injected into the Portuguese economy from the three-day Web Summit in 2016.

He also said that the event is expected to attract 40,000 high-tech visitors, trumping the 30,000 expected in Dublin this year.

It is understood €1.3m in financial support that Portuguese authorities will provide was not a deciding factor in the decision to leave Ireland.

Web Summit timeline

From humble origins, the Web Summit has grown into a global event. Here's a timeline of its progress down through the years.

2009: First 'Web Summit' assembled by Paddy Cosgrave in Trinity College with audience of 200 people and founders of Craigslist and Wordpress.

2010: Web Summit moves to Pearse St where 600 people see YouTube founder Chad Hurley as speaker.

2011: Moves to the RDS, attracts 2,000 people and Bono joins in on pub crawl.

2012: 4,000 people attend at the RDS. Attendees include Limerick-born chief executive Patrick Collison of newly escalating company Stripe.

2013: 10,000 people attend the RDS conference where the opening bell for Nasdaq is rung for the first time. Wifi difficulties begin to emerge.

2014: 22,000 people attend the event, which features Tesla founder Elon Musk and actor Eva Longoria as star speakers.

2015: The last Web Summit for Dublin announced. 30,000 people expected to attend. Speakers include Tinder founder Sean Rad.

Irish Independent

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