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Weckler's Summit Diary: Where business and money mix

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Crowds at the Web Summit in the RDS yesterday. Photo: Stephen Collins

Crowds at the Web Summit in the RDS yesterday. Photo: Stephen Collins

Ronan, Niamh and Niall McDermott with their ForFit app which allows you to challenge friends to get Fit or Forfit at the Web Summit yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Ronan, Niamh and Niall McDermott with their ForFit app which allows you to challenge friends to get Fit or Forfit at the Web Summit yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

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Crowds at the Web Summit in the RDS yesterday. Photo: Stephen Collins

Forget, for a second, the ubiquitous phrase 'Davos for geeks'. The single biggest question many ordinary people have about the Web Summit remains simply: What is it? Who goes there? Why do they go there?

Wandering around the giant event yesterday reminded me of the answers to the basic questions of who, why and what.

First, the 'what': the Web Summit is a trade fair. If that seems a prosaic way of putting it, it's not intended to be. There are important connections being made.

But the meat and bones of the Web Summit is as a place to exhibit your business, meet investors and partners or look for investors and partners. And, despite the push on food, sport and film this year, the overwhelming centre of gravity remains internet-related companies.

This, therefore, defines the who. There are two kinds of people who attend the Web Summit.

One group, made up of general marketers and curious white collar visitors from big name firms, are clearly identifiable in the way they wander around aimlessly looking a little lost.

The other group, made up of aggressive start-ups and venture capitalists, know exactly what they are doing. This latter quotient includes people like young Dubliner Ben Harris, whose smart kitchen scales start-up, Drop, was recently funded to the tune of €1.5m.

Mr Harris ably explains the 'why' of the Web Summit.

"We need to hire people and this is actually pretty useful to us, simply to meet other developers," he said.

"We've already met a few here that might fit the bill. The level of talent in Dublin is very high. And even though we're currently funded, I've already met a few senior investors who could be interesting in future.

"It's important for us to be here, to show investors and other developers that we're about the place."

Mr Harris isn't alone in his way of thinking. Darran Hughes, founder of the Dublin-based wearable health technology start-up Lumafix, said that the Web Summit was about presence and deals.

"Investment is a constant thing," said Mr Hughes. "We found investors for our next round of funding here at last year's Web Summit. We're almost ready to ship our product. This is the place to let people know about it."

There are other reasons for attending the Web Summit, of course. Fear of missing out. Commercial tie-ins. Vanity. But the guts of those attending this conference of 22,000 people are doing so for a very basic reason: to boost their business and make money.

Irish Independent