Does Web Summit moving to Lisbon for 2016 suck? Yes, absolutely. Is it the end of the world and the Irish tech industry? Absolutely not; here’s why.
Over the course of 5 years, Web Summit has grown from a small conference that just under 400 people attend its first year, to an event which expects 30,000 attendees this year. It’s easily the biggest date on the Ireland’s tech calendar, but today it was announced it won’t even be on the calendar in Ireland next year.
Why is Web Summit moving to Lisbon
Without stating specifics, given the issues with WiFi and public transport surrounding the RDS venue in previous years, give Web Summit founder, Paddy Cosgraves words an obvious context. Cosgrave stated”if Web Summit is to grow further, we need to find it a new home. Our attendees expect the best“. The RDS is not the only party to blame for the loss of what Bord Failte claim is a €35 million event. Hoteliers of Dublin who inflate prices beyond recognition have also player a part.
— Patrick Hayes (@phayes86) September 23, 2015
While these are the generally accepted reasons for the move, WiFi can be dodgy at most big events, and hotels will always take an opportunity to make money. It’s likely the RDS is reaching a headcount limit that Lisbon can overcome.
Reaction to Web Summit’s move to Lisbon
The news of the move has been received with widespread anger and disappointment. Government officials have described their feelings at the move from disappointment to embarrasment. Twitter is naturally where the majority of the public’s mourning has taken place.
— Ciamhie Mc Digital (@CiamhieMc) September 23, 2015
— WWN (@WhispersNewsLTD) September 23, 2015
Why this is all an overreaction
Without over complicating things, the tech industry was here before Web Summit was created and will remain long after it’s gone. Sure enough, Web Summit was and will be (for this year) an amazing tech event for people to attend in Dublin – we’ll be covering the event too remember! Let’s not forget that Web Summit itself has grown at a ridiculous rate over the past five years. It would be complete insanity to consider it will not be replaced by another event or series of events.
If you think Web Summit vanishing from the Irish calendar will stifle the emergence of Irish startups, just stop and think for a second. What is the likelihood of these small companies meeting a compatible backer during 3 days of cold calling face to face? Slim. Place this along side Ireland’s still booming tech industry, owing largely to tax breaks, coupled with an increasing willingness for startups to turn to crowdfunding, and you still have the conditions which encourage growth and emergence of new companies.
Web Summit has achieved great things and to a certain extend made tech cool, with companies all over the country and world funding people to attend this conference with insanely expensive tickets.
Web Summit has created the space in the calendar, but it’s move to Lisbon and the subsequent move into this space by the many other events such as the Startup Gathering, may very well be what develops tech in Ireland more than anything.