The noise of everyone else finally week two-day Web Summit in Dublin? Sell, sell, sell. When you get up on the balcony overlooking the primary room in the RDS and take it all in, the hubbub is impressive as a handful of hundred start-ups decide to try their stands to hawk their wares. Elsewhere, you will find different stages hosting presentations, panel discussions and workshops, as well as various nooks and crannies housing investors and men in blazers and open-neck shirts who confidently tell TV reporters they have of dollars to get.
All in all, you will find over 3,000 people wandering around taking everything in, like farmers at a mart. But, just like those farmers, you wonder who’s swayed by the finely calibrated chatter and practice-makes-perfect pitches. Whether it all about sell, sell, sell, who exactly is buying? Would be the marketing dudes and PR ladies (or marketing ladies and PR dudes, should you desire) who’re within abundance certainly, you will find a lot more of them in attendance than makers and coders really whom you want to attract?
There certainly an element of tyre-kicking going on, that is something all start-ups suffer from. But while you will find undoubtedly some who came to the Web Summit to operate a rule over projects and burgeoning enterprises they knew nothing about before heading to Dublin 4, the intense money women and men did their homework long before coming to town and knew exactly who or what they were after. It what sort of and talent-spotting works: you need to do your homework in advance, you realize precisely what you after and you search for people who have already put in the effort. Take SmartThings, for example, which won the Spark of Genius competition in the Web Summit. Its Kickstarter campaign was massively oversubscribed because people think it a project worth buying into.
If SmartThings happen to be on the fast-track, there are countless other startups here vying to just obtain a leg-up on the same ladder by all means necessary. From protyping what they attempting to produce to pitching at anyone who loitered by their stand for a lot more than 10 seconds (even when they were simply looking for any spare plug to recharge their phone), they have their game face on at all times. Such is the nature of startup culture that many here is going to be back here again the coming year with something new or perhaps a different version of the identical thing to market. Cosgrave has come a long way since he was pushing Rock the Vote at us in 2007 and, while there might be questions over some aspects of the operation, the manner by which Web Summit dominated the domestic business and tech agenda a week ago was quite remarkable. Stories from the Summit topped and tailed many news bulletins and reports, which is a considerable achievement for an event that is still in the infancy. As startups go, Cosgrave has a winner on his hands.
Yet, because the editorial in this paper noted on Saturday, conference like the Dublin Web Summit has about seven years prior to the tech set move on to new new thing so the onus is on Cosgrave and his team to buck that trend and reinvent the conference. It can be done take a look at how SXSW Interactive, an event Cosgrave might have ambitions to emulate, has survived and morphed into something else entirely to what it had been in the beginning, for example but it takes careful work and planning and a different tack than simply sell-sell-sell.
For instance, one of the greatest drawbacks for me only at that year Summit was the possible lack of any bite to the content. Most of the panel discussions and presentations were filled with PR smoke and mirrors with little real substance to the discussion. There is too much airbrushing happening, too many cosy conversations between vested interests (Pinterest co-founder Paul Sciarra was interviewed by Michael Birch, who just is actually among the investors in the company, so you can imagine how that one went down) and too much hit air.
Obviously, you not getting all these people flying into Dublin when they know they going to face sticky questions. There are little follow-up, for instance, when Beats By Dre president Luke Wood talked about certain reasons behind the organization decision to locate its international HQ in Dublin. But, for example, SXSW Interactive has thrived because its panel discussions are in a significantly higher pitch with moderators not scared to inquire about hard questions and most from the ideas for the conference content are generated through the SXSWi community. By giving the ability to the community, the conference has manged to outlast those. Has the Web Summit got an identical community at this stage which it can tap into?
At the same time, there were some panels which went far beyond the simplistic PR pitch. Daphne Koller of Stanford University and Coursera was hugely engaging as she spoke about the growth in numbers taking online university courses and also the problems and advantages which upscaling brings, as the discussion about political activism with Wael Ghonim, Joe Green and Maya Baratz was fascinating and wide-ranging which didn pull any punches.
Yet it was noticable that the main stage room wasn’t quite as hopping of these as it was for others.