Business

Thousands expected at Dublin web conference

AROUND 20,000 people will descend on Dublin this week for the city's Web Summit, which seeks to bring together some of the most exciting start ups in technology with leading investors from around the world.

The event has grown into the largest of its kind in Europe and takes place over three days from tomorrow at the RDS and various other venues across the city.

Such is the calibre of the conference, it has attracted dozens of top speakers from global giants such as Google, Amazon, Cisco, Twitter and Apple.

There will be addresses from the likes of American actress Eva Longoria, model Lily Cole, U2 frontman Bono and European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.

Founder Paddy Cosgrove said the event - dubbed 'Davos for geeks' - had experienced massive growth since its inception in 2010.

Speaking to The Irish News, he said: "We started four years ago in a bedroom in Dublin and when we got too big for that, moved to the living room.

"For our first web summit, we had 400 people, almost all of whom had come from Ireland.

"We had three international journalists which we had to beg and harass to be there - this year we will have 1,200 journalists."

The conference has long since sold out, with would-be entrepreneurs hoping to be the next big story or start up.

Mr Cosgrove explained that tap-ping into people's passions can lead to some unlikely business opportunities.

"I have been to a lot of conferences and they are nine to five, but this is anything but that.

"We will be taking people on pub crawls at places across the city. You can't really get to know somebody by exchanging a business card at 11am but you might over a pint."

Among deals secured last year was for Dublin-based Kitman Labs - which provides athlete performance analysis.

"We got rugby star Jamie Heaslip on board and he took a non-alcoholic pub crawl round Dublin," said Mr Cosgrove.

"On the tour was an American investor John Molloy, who was an early investor in PayPal and also happened to be a big rugby fan.

"Jamie told him about a startup Kitman and then two months later, he put £4 million into the company".

Ahead of the main Dublin event, Belfast hosted its own web summit at the T13 Urban Sports Academy in the Titanic Quarter last night.

Michael Graham, director of corporate real estate at Titanic Quarter said the summit was fitting given the city's "rich vein of scientific achievement, running from giants such as Lord Kelvin through to John Bell and modern-day pioneers such as Queen's University's Professor Maire O'Neill who is based at UK's centre for secure information technology at the Northern Ireland Science Park.

"Given Northern Ireland's heritage, its current batch of world-class R&D and the availability of some of the best information technology infrastructure in Europe, hi-tech inward investment will remain a key target sector for Titanic Quarter."

* CONFERENCE CALL: Eva Longoria, Lily Cole, Bono and Paul McGinley will address the Web Summit conference

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