So Ireland is the Tech Capital of the World, what next?
Unless you were hiding under a rock for the past few weeks you will have been hard pushed not to hear about that little technology event that took over the RDS this Halloween. This year’s Dublin Web Summit*, the biggest in its relatively short history, saw 10,000 attendees descend on the Ballsbridge area in what the organisers described as a ‘festival of ideas’. Having worked with the summit since its early days, it was a pleasure and privilege to see just how far it had come and how much global attention it was attracting.
Even as early as Tuesday evening you could feel the buzz that the summit was generating. As we made our way to the RDS, the taxi driver informed us that we were his fifth Web Summit related fare of the day… not bad.
Recognised as one of the most important events in the international technology sector, the two-day summit’s unique set-up saw innovative start-up minnows rubbing shoulders with Silicon Valley bigwigs. CEO’s from internet giants like Dropbox, AOL and Facebook were just some of the high profile attendees that made up an impressive speaker list.
The event attracted people from all walks of life (PR consultants included) and you can be forgiven for asking yourself what business an Irish international rugby player and a legendary pro-skateboarder had to say at a tech conference. But therein lies the strength of the summit. It’s not just about taking an inward view of a sector but rather an all-encompassing look at where we are today as a society. Technology is everywhere and is part of everything, or has the potential to be. Everyone has a role to play and an idea to contribute, no matter what field they’re in. It’s events like these that get people talking, sharing and, most importantly, thinking.
The energy and enthusiasm pulsating through the various stages and exhibition halls was infectious. Every nook and cranny was occupied with creative minds engaging in tête-à-têtes, sparking ideas that could already have resulted in the birth of the next Facebook or Twitter.
One of the highlights of the summit had to be when Taoiseach Enda Kenny rang the NASDAQ bell to open stock market proceedings, the first time ever that the bell was rung in Ireland. It was then that you got a real sense that Ireland as a tech destination, had arrived.
Rounding off proceedings the Taoiseach returned for a fireside chat with innovator extraordinaire, Elon Musk, the man behind PayPal, electric car company Tesla and space explorations company Space X. Together they discussed Ireland’s future with Musk recommending that to attract engineering companies we needed to have highly skilled engineers and the best way to achieve that was for 3rd level fees be ditched for engineering degrees.
Now while the value to the local economy (yet to be calculated for this year) from the Web Summit proper and its sidebar events such as the Food Summit and Night Summit, will undoubtedly be positive, the real question is how we can turn these lovely techie plaudits into long-term monetary value for the newly appointed Tech Capital of the World.
During the summit IDA Ireland announced that 335 new jobs were to be created in Ireland by nine US and European companies but how can we further capitalise on our ‘Capital’ status? How can we best train and retain our necessary talent pool for these incoming multinationals? How can we assure continued regulatory support?
As for attracting new biz, a welcome start could be Enda’s new buddy Elon coming good and bringing his Tesla European HQ to Cork.
*Disclosure: Dublin Web Summit is a client of MKC Communications