I love Dublin with the fervour of the convert. I was not born here. I am not Irish – yes, even though my professional name is ‘Mic’ – but I love the country and its people. In terms of tech, I am proud of its scene and spending time with its incredible entrepreneurs. Ireland punches above its weight.
Over the years, the Web Summit has become a beacon shining across the Atlantic and luring the Americans here so they can wallow in their homeopathic sense of Irishness (Irish heritage is so diluted in most Americans, it may as well be a placebo).
Paddy Cosgrave has become the crown prince of Dublin’s tech scene. Before I go any further I should say: I worked for the Web Summit in the past and know Cosgrave and his co-founders well, as well as a significant number of current and former employees of the company. I respect what they’ve built.
However, the Cosgrave shine could be about to gain a permanent tarnish. The company has been teasing the notion of a move to another country entirely for several years. It’s sent up a test balloon again in an Irish Independent article and some not-so-cryptic tweets:
Brunch on Saturday in Lisbon? Any recommendations
— Paddy Cosgrave (@paddycosgrave) August 22, 2015
The story, written by Adrian Weckler, an excellent journalist well-known for his good Web Summit sources, is covered in Cosgrave fingerprints. Is the event serious about ditching Dublin? Possibly.
Is it eager to force the RDS – where the event is held – to improve its dire Wi-Fi and to edge the Irish government into ponying up more cash? Definitely. The Web Summit wants Ireland to work for its love.
The event has been an important part of Dublin’s flowering as a tech center, but it is not the only catalyst.
There are incredible entrepreneurs like Eamon Leonard, who has put a lot of his own money into community events and even spent some time at the Web Summit trying to work on its culture. There are workspaces like the renewed Dogpatch Labs – disclosure: I’m unpaid journalist-in-residence there – and investors like Noel Ruane, who elevate the city.
Beyond them, the big names, the ones who get burnished in the Dublin Globe – the Dublin tech scene’s equivalent of the Soviet propaganda paper Pravda – there are hundreds of founders, engineers, designers and tinkerers.
For Dublin to lose the Web Summit would be a tragedy, but it would bounce back. This is not the city that Paddy built, no matter how much his organization subtly spins it that way.
If the Web Summit forsakes Dublin, it will lose much more than the city will. Take your event across the sea, Paddy and you’ve lost one of your greatest strengths.
Bono was never the same once he started to market Irishness rather than embody it. The same fates awaits the crown prince of Dublin tech, if he starts to sing songs for Portugal or the Netherlands.
Image credit: Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media