Shots were fired yesterday as entrepreneur and Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave dismissed the Irish government’s investment in the Dublin-based event as “hush money.”
Cosgrave has been criticised for taking his incredibly popular conference - attended by 30,000 people from international startups, businesses and venture capitalists this week - to Lisbon next year.
Web Summit is shedding its Irish roots, Cosgrave says, because of Dublin’s infrastructure and “poor planning.” The event has seen substantial growth in just four years, but the government has done little to accommodate it - despite the sustainable economic boost Web Summit could bring, he claims.
The move, announced this year, has caused a rift between the Irish business board, Enterprise Ireland, the government and Cosgrave, who received around €700,000 from the state in total.
'It was hush money'
In a radio interview yesterday, Cosgrave said the funds were gifted simply so Web Summit organisers would “lavish the government in praise”.
“What we received over a four-year period, in my eyes, amounts to nothing more than hush money," he added.
Cosgrave accused the state of using the Web Summit as a photo-opportunity for tourism instead of focusing on acute issues in Dublin like poverty and housing.
In retaliation, the Irish Minister for business and employment Ged Nash told Irish media Cosgrave should hand back the cash, so it could be invested in Irish startups.
The public dispute will do little to entice Cosgrave back to the Emerald Isle in the future, which will be a blow for small businesses in the city during the winter months.
Irish-born Game of Thrones star Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth) said during the event yesterday: “I think it’s a disgrace that something this clever and wonderful has been lost by people who probably don’t know how to turn on a mobile phone.
“It’s an embarrassment...They [the Irish government] tried to sell the loss of this as a success story.
“I really think the people who are responsible for us losing this didn’t realise how much of a diamond this is for us - and the world.
“The entire government needs to get down on their knees to Paddy to bring it back.”
Why is Dublin a good city for Web Summit?
Thanks to a series of tax cuts and employment initiatives, many tech companies are headquartered in the City, like Twitter and Facebook. Further out, southern Irish city Cork is home to the European branch of RedHat and Qualcomm. Many tech companies are building datacentres in Ireland too, including Apple and cloud providers like NetSuite.
Having WebSummit in Dublin also brings benefits for the UK. Visitors from further afield like China and India are likely to make a stop in London beforehand, bringing tourism and business opportunities.
Plus, night summit and food summit - the social elements of Web Summit - make Dublin a good city for the event logistically. A variety of high quality independent food and drink companies are keen to sponsor lunch and the city centre is known for its buzzing nightlife too.
Equality and diversity
The organisers announced that it will offer free tickets to 10,000 women next year, in a bid to up the diversity of the Web Summit crowd.
Women entrepreneurs can be nominated here.