Dublin Web Summit – Ups & Downs – a review


Last week I had the pleasure of spending 2 days in Dublin attending Paddy Cosgrave’s near overnight success of a conference, the Dublin Web Summit. The two-day conference brought together 4,000+ attendees, 250 exhibiting startups, and what I heard was an amazing set of speakers. France was well represented in the summit – founder Tariq Krim announced some new things for Jolicloud, Bordeaux-based startup Storific qualified for the semi-finals of the €100K startup competition, in which both Allmyapps & the recently launched Clever Cloud participated. I also had the opportunity to meet Eventrbrite CTP & Paris-resident Renaud Visage, and also ran into Azendoo CEO Greg Lefort. With all that aside, I wanted to give my thoughts on the conference as a whole:

Ups – The Little Things in Life

If there’s one thing I didn’t expect from a 4,000+ person conference, it was the little touches at the conference. DWS-branded coffee cups & coffee artists painting Angry Birds characters in your latte may not seem like much, but it goes a long ways when you’re expecting to feel like sheep in a pen. I personally enjoyed the fact that from the moment I stepped off the plane, I was greeted at the airport by DWS people telling me how to get to my hotel – the hotel, by the way, was across the street from the conference & held all of the startups who participated in START (I crashed with Allymapps. Shhhh).
Beyond that, I personally took advantage of the massage-guy in the press lounge on the 1st day, and it was literally seven minutes in heaven – I also met a VC waiting in line, so I know I wasn’t the only one.
I also enjoyed the availability of the ‘top-tier’ attendees – VCs, founders, judges on panels, etc. DWS had dedicated locations where they asked speakers to ‘just sit’ and talk with whoever came by – it looked a lot like Comic-Con, with young founders lining up with pitch decks on tablets pitching the likes of Connect Ventures’ Sitar Teli. I also saw DFJ Espirit, Accel & Google Ventures getting a fair amount of attention.

Downs – It’s the Big Things in Life

What is a conference? It’s startups, speakers, and internet. Sadly, those were the three areas I was a little underwhelmed – or, in the case of the 250+ startups with stands at the event, overwhelmed.
While I’m sure each startup was excited to be there, I heard back from a fair amount of them that there was no use spending any time at your stand, because there was no way that you were going to get seen. There were just too many startups – God forbid you were on the albeit visible second floor. I personally took French founders and brought them to the press area, where most speakers retreated to for scheduled interviews, lunch, or the hopes of getting press attention.
There were plenty of press there as well, but I doubt they were doing any blogging, as even DWS knew the internet would go down in advance. I know it happens at every conference, but this has got to be a situation where a Telecom company can exchange premium sponsor status (this year’s biggest sponsor was Dyn, by the way) just to guarantee wifi will work like a charm.
Given all the startups, all the side stages, and, oh yeah, a dancing robot, I did not see one main stage panel. I’m sure they were great, and the speaker line-up looked great, but the general consensus was that the talks only skimmed the surface, and it was much easier just to catch the talker after their talk and have a chat with them for 5 minutes. I know that speakers speaking is how conference organizers coerce them into attending – and DWS really capitalized on that, inviting them to f.ounders and DWS at once – but I wonder what DWS would’ve looked like if there were no formal talks, but instead there was just a “town hall” style Q&A section.

DWS – Overall, a Success

Don’t let my “Litlle Ups” & “Big Downs” metaphor lead you to the wrong impression, I thought this conference was oustanding – it brought great people together in Dublin, showing off Dublin & Dublin-based startups as well as some great international talent: but there’s still work to be done. I couldn’t get over the overwhelming feeling that the conference was being put on to pay the bills as well as the bills of f.ounders. I’m sure if I had been invited to f.ounders, I probably would’ve felt different – but I wasn’t, so I don’t.
I’ll definitely be back next year – and I may even come to the next London Web Summit, as well. It should be next February or March, I heard.