Dublin Web Summit 2015: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

November 5, 2015

9:00 pm

Well, that’s a wrap folks: after five years of fast growth, punishing price gouging, and Clinton-era internet access, the Web Summit will be swapping white pudding from Dublin for wood-fired seafood in Lisbon in 2016. Lets’ take a look at the good, bad, and ugly from the final Irish Web Summit.

The Good

  • The Angel Summit: The organizers of the November 2 Angel Summit should be applauded. They attracted a large, but targeted, catered and manageable crowd. The speaker sessions were interesting and the roundtable offered the kinds of organic chat networking that are rare these days outside of pub crawls.
  • The Speakers Dinners: were also very well done. The food, particularly at Soder + Ko, was very good, and they offered great networking in a relaxed setting.

The Bad

  • The Internet: was bad again this year. The problem was particularly terrible because – for whatever reason – the Summit’s own internet didn’t work (or barely, at rare times) and the air coverage was also blocked. When you have to walk outside in rain and four blocks past the US Embassy to send an email, you have got a serious problem.
  • The Logistics: were no better than before. There were buses, but it was often easier to walk to and from the venue. Traffic was horrific and mismanaged. The conference itself was split from the dinners, which were almost all in City Center.
  • The Controversy: honestly, those emails make everyone look bad. And now the Web Summit no longer has the luck of the Irish. Everyone loses. But it will be interesting to see what Portugal has to offer.

The Ugly

  • Price Gouging on Startups Hit New Levels: I didn’t really pay attention to it until this year, but it was undeniable. Like many, I hold the belief that events should charge startups the minimum at cost: this ecosystem exists to grow startups, not bleed them dry. The fact of the matter was that, as an investor attendee, speaker, and judge, I derived a lot of value from the Summit because of the angel summit, the speaker and investor dinners, and several of the more exclusive access events. Startups paying exorbitant rates did not experience these benefits. That’s wrong, and no one should be afraid to say it.
  • Decreased Quality across the Board: with all due respect to the above, a huge, added part of the problem was that the Summit has focused on quantity, now at the expense of quality. I judged 16 startups between the Startup Pitch Event Judging and the Angel Awards, and there were two that I would have considered having a coffee with on a later date. And, in truth, I doubt either would have made a screening for our syndicates, let alone deep dives for potential funding. Having heard about – but not personally come across – so many stories of “Special Offers” of cash exchanges to pitch angels – I shudder to think that many of these startups paid for pitching opportunities that will more likely than not lead nowhere.

The Verdict

The Web Summit has tons of potential. But the organizers have to refocus on helping startups – not high exhibiting prices, sponsorships, and overpriced food promotion – and put a new emphasis on quality and openness, over quantity and segregated exclusivity.

Image Credit: Web Summit Facebook page

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I am an entrepreneur, angel investor, and early-stage VC living and working in New York City.

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