Saturday 7 December 2019

21st Century Man feeling like a dinosaur at the Web Summit

I went to the web summit and felt like a dinosaur. but then the heady optimism got to me.

Picture posed, Getty Images
Picture posed, Getty Images

Colm Tobin

Last week, I attended the Web Summit in Dublin's RDS which, for those of you living on the moon for the last while, is the biggest tech start-up event in Europe, a sort of Eucharistic congress for geeks.

As well as the veritable avalanche of hopeful start-ups in attendance, there were also herds of highly caffeinated journalists, tech evangelists, angel investors, venture capitalists, coders, a couple of billionaires and at least one confused cartoon head from Twitter. Oh, and of course there were all the headline-grabbers too like Eva Longoria, Bono and Princess Beatrice of York, who, from what I can establish, is a popular character from the Harry Potter series.

All in all, around 22,000 people attended and it really was an amazing achievement, over-reported wifi problems aside. A big, bold, positive fist-bump of a thing. Anyway, this was all new to me. I've been to loads of these types of conferences in the television world but, frankly, I felt a bit like a bit of dinosaur walking around the Web Summit. I may as well been wearing overalls, offering to shoe horses.

Firstly, there was the dress code. It was fairly eclectic, but in the main, everyone there looked like they were auditioning to join Sigur Rós. I don't want to be overly glib and say the place was packed to the rafters with hipsters, but the place was packed to the rafters with hipsters. From all over the world too. Sweden, Israel, France, China, the US… The list goes on and on. Embarrassingly, when I asked one particular guy in the coffee queue what part of Scandinavia he was from, the calmly responded, "Fermanagh". (He was wearing clogs, okay?!)

Secondly, there was all the tech business jargon. I'm no luddite. I've installed RAM. I've defragmented stuff. I've Instagrammed hot food. I charge at least seven devices on my bedside locker every night. I'm modern. But there was a whole new lexicon I had to get my head around at the various panels, presentations and other semi-religious events I struggled to catch as I bounced from the Centre Stage to the Music Tent to the Machine Stage to the Food Summit.

If I had a euro for every time I heard the words traction, pivot, big data, scalability, critical mass and Songs of Innocence, I'd be able to start my own internet company. Still, I paid attention, and I'm pretty confident that I've grasped how to drop these buzzwords into general conversation and intend on pivoting enough traction in the critical mass going forward and, believe me, I may even go public if I can get my hands on some IPO. All in all, I found myself overtaken by the positivity of it all, the inspiring spirit of entrepreneurship on display. It was a heady mix of Californian optimism and simmering desperation. Of course, with every gold rush, there are a lot of awful ideas out there, and poor investment punts made too. So, in the spirit of both of these things, I've come up win a few start-up ideas of my own for next year's summit:

• Disgracebook: a place to publicly store photographic evidence of the awful stuff you got up to you in your 20s

• Farmr: an Tinder-style app aimed at rural dwellers, which allows you to browse local farmers in ascending order of the amount of acreage in their possession. Swipe left for 'not a hope', swipe right for the shift

• WhatsWhatsApp: an app designed to help you figure out what WhatsApp is exactly

• Scrapchat: an app which you can use to organise and share videos of bare-knuckle fist fights

• Hailo: upload prayers directly to your patron saint of choice! (Slight rights issue with the name Hailo, confident it can be resolved)

• Munstagram: for Munster rugby fans. Allows you to convert all your photos to appear as if they were taken during Munster's glorious Heineken Cup victory in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in 2006. Weddings, christenings etc will never look the same

• Punterest: an app which lets you pin bad puns as you come across them online or in, say, newspaper/magazine columns

• FasciaBook: a social network targeted at the global fascia enthusiast market.

I very much look forward to hearing from you online

@colmtobin where I will gladly furnish you with my business plans/bank details. Next year, we could be billionaires.

Irish Independent

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