This post is more properly an unfinished draft but problems with WordPress on the iPad are making it difficult to finish so I decided to post it anyway …
Arrival at the Dublin Web Summit (#dws4) on Thursday was most interesting. We were all greeted by two Bog of Allen protesters. I’m still not totally sure what they were protesting about, but it certainly was odd. Decide for yourself at bogofallen.com.
After registering and having a festival wristband attached I headed into the lecture hall in the cellar of the Chartered Accountants Institute, a space where most of the early birds had migrated to, despite being urged to visit the cafe while waiting for kickoff.
I took out my iPhone and iPad.
There was no WiFi and virtually no mobile phone signal. Thankfully I’d been warned in advance.
I’ll wager that every person in that room had at least one networked device. There was a proliferation of phones, tablets, net books and laptops of all flavours on show, unsurprisingly. Hundreds of technologically literate,ahead-of-the-curve people couldn’t connect to the rest of the world via their social network of choice.
It chimed harmonically with our nation’s failed attempt at a National Broadband Scheme. I simply couldn’t believe it and stropped off upstairs to find out what was going on.
Oddly, the blue-t-shirted staffer at the trestle table in the hall was able to remedy the situation simply and immediately. There was an account to log into. Why he hadn’t mentioned it when I’d registered with him not 20 minutes previously I’ll never understand.
I retired back downstairs and spread the word and, half an hour later, the organizer of the event @paddycosgrove announced the login information to the already-informed crowd. Too little, too late.
And I paid €250 plus hotel plus train ticket for this.
Anyway, the evening kicked off with some business pitches.
More tech problems abounded with microphones but, with stuttering volume, five companies which had entered the “Spark of Genius” competition pitched us their products. They were trying to show us the wonders of their ideas and, much more importantly, just how great the business models were. This set the tone for the evening’s talks. There was a definite feeling of profiteering above knowledge sharing, that the Summit was about making as much cash as possible, as quickly as possible.
It seemed all about the ‘exit strategies’ proposed by the Venture Capitalists – @BrianCVC, @setonrog and @tkeller who followed the startup pitchers. All about selling your company, this thing you’d created or were in the process of breathing into life, for as much money as possible.
But then we were in the Chartered Accountants Institute.
@MrDylanCollins followed the VCs and pitched the latest in a long line of companies he’s been involved with, gruUpy.com. At least he had the humour, intelligence and time to carry it off, and he gave us his most entertaining top 10 tips for start-ups.
He was followed by, for me the star of the show so far, YouTube founder Chad Hurley.
In possibly the most insightful moment of the evening, when asked what YouTube has learned about human psychology from all of their data he replied: “People like funny cat videos.”
Hurley was joined by Brent Hoberman, founder of lastminute.com, to round off the evening. Hoberman’s best bit perhaps summed up the evening for me. “Of course it’s all wrong. It’s a business plan,” he said.
There were some positives about the evening. The big takeaway for me was repeated by every speaker. The most important thing in any startup is the people involved.
People make things happen. People are what VCs invest in. People are what make products great.
Postscript: What is more interesting about Mr Hurley was something that happened at the exclusive, invite-only parallel event f.ounders. This is the event that most Irish press attention focused on – the people flown in, not the home-grown talent. Chad chose his trip to Dublin to announce that he’s stepping down as CEO of YouTube.
I’ll expand (and no doubt edit) this post in the next day or two. The problems in using this (borrowed) iPad as a primary tool are becoming more apparent. I’ll also post a quick run-down of the Spark of Genius pitches and more on Chad Hurley’s talk.