Web Summit reality check on Dublin as Digital Capital of World
In 2013 Enda Kenny, taoiseach/ prime minister, boasted that Ireland had become the new "Digital Capital of the World" and if that had to have any substance it had to relate to Dublin, Ireland's capital city, as a significant global tech hub or cluster. A shock announcement on Wednesday should induce a reality check as Finfacts has been arguing for years — giving hype and delusion primacy over substance inevitably ends in disappointment.
On Wednesday, Paddy Cosgrave, co-founder and CEO of the Web Summit, announced from Lisbon that from 2016 the annual Web Summit would be hosted in the Portuguese capital and next month's Web Summit in Dublin will be the last for some years at least.
Portugal's Observador newspaper reported that the Web Summit would get a subsidy of €1.3m to cover the "event logistics and infrastructure" of the conference moving to Lisbon, with an expected return of around €175m.
The newspaper said that Paulo Portas, deputy prime minister, and Leonardo Mathias, the secretary of state for economics, have personally overseen the bid to bring the Web Summit to the MEO Arena and International Fair of Lisbon after it beat off competition from Amsterdam.
A recently set up 'Bring The Web Summit To Lisbon in 2016' group has attracted 5,000 online members.
The Web Summit, Europe's largest technology conference, was founded in the bleak bailout year of 2010 and began as the Dublin Web Summit attracting Silicon Valley tech leaders such as Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and Chad Hurley co-founder of YouTube, and 400 attendees. Next month 30,000 attendees are expected to attend the event in Dublin.
The loss of the Web Summit is a huge blow to Ireland as the international attention was positive for foreign direct investment (FDI) and it helped mask what is a small indigenous tech scene compared with the main hubs in Europe.
Paddy Cosgrave writes in an op-ed in today's Irish Times:
"...if we are to scale our flagship event further, if we are to deliver to our attendees the experience they demand and they pay good money for, we have to move. We needed a new home for future growth. It is no secret that we have been looking at various locations around Europe to support future growth and provide attendees with the best possible experience. We chose Lisbon because of the strong infrastructure in the city, the world-class venue and the thriving startup community. In 2015, Lisbon became the first city to receive the European Entrepreneurial Region award. Investors from across Europe have started looking to Lisbon to capitalise on the low rents and affordable IT talent. Dozens of Portuguese startups have exhibited at Web Summit and Codacy won Web Summit’s PITCH competition last year. But don’t take my word for it: here is Mike Butcher of technology blog TechCrunch who knows what he is talking about when it comes to startup communities: 'Lisbon is emerging as a genuinely new tech ecosystem in Europe, with Berlin-levels of cheapness but with Southern European weather.'”
On Tuesday we in effect warned about the danger of believing our own propaganda while ignoring the existing evidence and the challenges of creating a research base in Ireland and sustainable tech startups.
It's time for a reality check when there have been no significant Irish tech life sciences scaleups since the dot-com bust.
In 2014 the European Commission's Joint Research Centre ranked the top tech hubs in Europe as being in Munich, London, Paris, Karlsruhe, Cambridgeshire, and Stockholm.
Dublin got a 16 rank.
Data published last June by GP Bullhound, a British investment bank, show that Europe has had 40 one billion-dollar+ startups (“unicorns”) since 2000.
Calling an area in Dublin 'Silicon Docks' where mainly US-owned tech firms are engaged in selling and administration does not make a tech cluster or give credence to a claim as the "Digital Capital of the World."
Build on the evidence not aspirations to achieve success:
Pic on top: Enda Kenny rung the NASDAQ opening bell from the centre stage at the Web Summit at the RDS in Dublin on 4 Nov 2014. He was joined on stage for the event by Paddy Cosgrave (on his right), the co-founder of the summit, along with other business leaders and politicians. A live feed of the event was played in Times Square in New York.
Bono of U2 at the 2014 Web Summit in Dublin