JOE's big interview with Web Summit CEO Paddy Cosgrave 6 years ago

JOE's big interview with Web Summit CEO Paddy Cosgrave

"Just like JOE, this is an Irish success story."

This week saw the launch of the 2015 Web Summit, led by CEO Paddy Cosgrave.


The Web Summit is celebrating its fifth year, and it's set to be the biggest one yet. Household names from the world of technology, such as; Sean Rad (Tinder), Mike Krieger (Instagram) and Ed Catmull (Pixar), among many others will take to the RDS stage in November.

After the press launch, JOE caught up with the CEO, Paddy Cosgrave, to discuss the most important start-up gathering in the world, Ireland's position among the elite entrepreneurs, as well as getting Paddy's insight into the continued rise of

Well Paddy, could you have ever envisioned the growth that the Web Summit has enjoyed since the first gathering in 2010?

No way! When I was sitting on my couch for the first year, the first two years, there wasn't a sign of an international attendee during that period.


For example, there were only three start-ups exhibited in 2010 - there will be more than 2,000 this year. It's mad.

There has been a crazy year-on-year growth over the last five years with the Web Summit, what do you think has hit home with people so much?

Well, when you start a business I don't think you should focus on trying to sell lots of something to people. That shouldn't be your aim. Your aim should be to simply build one really good product that people really, really like.

It's all about the research, really.


At the very first Web Summit, we were hosting a lot of dinners and pub crawls so we asked the events manager if there was software available that could optimally assign everyone to different groups and tables.

We were more or less laughed at, so off we went to design a brute force algorithm that basically optimally randomized people given certain constraints.

It was more or less data science which we have now massively increased in terms of the personnel who work with us.

It's a huge foundation to our growing success.


Basically, it's Moneyball for conferences, to give it a sporting comparison!

Wow, that's pretty amazing. Considering this is an Irish start-up which hosts a big number of established and start-up business ventures from abroad, where do you think Ireland ranks alongside the rest of the world in its entrepreneurial attitude?

Oh, incredibly high. I mean, if you think about it, Dublin is the 84th largest city in the world. It punches way above its weight in the rankings of cities in terms of having a strong entrepreneur-ethic.

The city is a reflection of the rest of the country, we're a small nation. I don't know if it's down to this factor or simply our culture, but I think we're actually a lot more entrepreneurial than many of us assume.

It's funny, because Ireland is probably the first society on earth to beat up ourselves, or somebody else, up for doing well. Just look at the reaction to the success of Conor McGregor.


Actually, I saw recently on Twitter that somebody wrote, "we can only go down from here" in response to Ireland being number 2 in the rugby world rankings. Well that's technically not true, there's another place we can go.

The start-up business attitude seems to be a growing trend in Ireland. You are a big influence on young entrepreneurs in this country, so what advice would you give to the next Irish person considering a start-up?

Do it, and do it young! I mean, what's the risk in trying something when you're fresh out of college? You have nothing to lose and it is a time in your life when, traditionally, you have built up considerable knowledge but young enough not to carry around the inevitable baggage that life brings down the road, making it harder to 'start-up' then.

Another great option is to go work for a company that is ambitious, fast-growing and a place where you can really make a difference, as opposed to being just another number.

Just like in JOE, you guys are creating so much great material at the moment and it's fantastic. You wouldn't necessarily get that opportunity with other companies.

That's exactly it. is actually celebrating its five year anniversary this year, just like the Web Summit. How would you rate the progress and success of to date?

It's unbelievable. It's an unbelievable brand and has had incredible success in a very short period time in what is a very competitive market. Backing Conor McGregor from early on really helped expand the brand, too.

We're fascinated in JOE about the list of speakers at this year's Sports Summit, particularly ex-Manchester United 'keeper Edwin Van der Sar. Can you tell us what he will be talking about at the Summit?

Yeah, it's great, I'm actually very excited about that. Edwin Van der Sar is the CMO of Ajax and deals with how football clubs are thinking about marketing themselves. The last decade has completely changed that area because of the massive influence that social media now has on the sport.

Players can now build a brand for themselves outside of traditional media, like Rio Ferdinand has done.

It's amazing because sport, in some ways, is becoming less of an art and more of a science. It's like a technology arms race in terms of who has the best statisticians.

Finally, regardless of where the Web Summit ends up in the future, will it always remain inherently Irish?

Absolutely. It's an Irish company. It's the same with JOE has now opened up in the UK - that's an Irish success story. Yeah, totally, the Web Summit will always be Irish-run no matter where it is in the world.


The Web Summit takes place at the RDS Main Hall in Ballsbridge, November 3-5.