As one of the world’s biggest tech conferences gets set to wrap up tomorrow, Web Summit leaves behind a legacy of treachery, crap WiFi and €20 hot-dogs. Does Ireland even like tech or are Web Summit crying over spilled milk?
Negativity has a wide reach
Good news doesn’t travel fast at all. Bad news on the other hand, goes like the clappers. Imagine yourself in conversation with someone who doesn’t have more than a passing interest in technology where the topic switches to Web Summit and the move to Lisbon. There are two inevitable ways this conversation goes.
In the red corner we have the Web Summit, big technology phenomenon with a perception of outgrowing boots and forgetting roots. In the blue corner we have the government. Another group who the general public are only delighted to give out about. The perfect storm, where no-one knows what to complain about, but gives out anyway.
The government is a whipping boy for every nation, but just why do so many people feel that Web Summit deserves the slating it gets? Well it’s more complicated than that.
Are we even giving out about Web Summit?
Okay, so Food Gate didn’t help them, there’s no defending the state of that €20 hot dog lads, but ultimately people enjoy slating Web Summit in a “good enough for them” manner of fashion. The irony of poor WiFi at a tech conference is just to sweet to pass up, with us admitting we’ve been caught up in the furore a few times.
We don’t believe people are aggrieved about the Web Summit leaving Ireland, they are more upset that a tech conference born and raised here is flying the coup. People have a testy relationship with technology at the best of times. It may be their phone doesn’t work the way they want it to or their broadband speeds are shite, but either way technology is rarely what makes life easier; quite the contrary.
There is also a very understandable and human reason. The technology industry is seen as a young people’s workplace where money is made big and quick. It’s an industry that grew quick, leaving many behind who could now only see these new big money makers in workplaces with bean bags, flexible hours and free Macbooks.
News of new tech jobs break on a weekly basis, but it’s more common to find conversation surrounding tax breaks for big tech companies in Ireland than celebrating some of the world’s biggest companies choosing a little island in the west of Europe as home…
So does Ireland even like tech then?
The Lisbon debacle is the perfect microcosm for Ireland’s attitude towards technology. The ill advised leaking of emails between Paddy Cosgrave and government officials shows the government could have done more to keep the event in Ireland, but thought it unlikely the Web Summit would go anywhere and so kept efforts to a minimum.
The huge concern for us, is the lack of Irish startups as we walked through the Downtown area of Web Summit. You’ll hear Dutch pitches, German pitches – the whole lot, but one of the only Irish accents we heard pitch today was for a UK company. Chances are that non-Irish investors will be giving their cash to non-Irish startups, with us celebrating the 3 day event that brought them together.
The tech scene in Ireland is a false economy, not because of taxes but instead because the successes we celebrate are not homegrown. For us to truly be able to say Ireland loves tech, we must first be a nation where startups receive unrivaled support, encouragement and adoption; much like Portugal. Portugal is a country that loves tech.