Dublin’s tech event calendar is always jam packed with quality. On October 20th, instead of just obliging myself to choose between three great events happening simultaneously, I decided to go to them all: Uprise Festival, re:publica and The Girl Geek Dinners.
The critical tool for the daring feat in Dublin was a bicycle. Unexpectedly, mine attracted the attention of a policeman (in Ireland called a “Garda”).
Here’s my story of one tech day in Dublin.
The idea to bring the Uprise Festival to Dublin started with a muffin. Gene Murphy, a super connector in the startup scene here, met with Paul O’Connell, the founder of Uprise. It was April 2016, and they were eating muffins in Amsterdam, the home of the Uprise Festival.'
— Startup Dublin (@TechinDub) October 20, 2016
Six months later, as I entered the front doors of RDS it was clear that the muffin conversation had steered them well. The din of the crowd at Uprise Dublin was – in a good way – deafening. From the bric-a-brac marketplace filled with local and international startups and the panel stage that sat right inside the mayhem, to the thinly curtained workshop rooms, and the chill out area, reserved for live performing musicians, there wasn’t much silence anywhere. But it didn’t seem to get in the way of the most important feature of the festival – the conversation. Everyone was approachable and accessible, as long as you could shout loud enough to be actually heard.
There were important lessons from the sessions for those who could hear them: don’t hire for experience, hire for potential; give employees togetherness, not perks; build community through reciprocity; intrapreneurship works best when you embed yourself like Dian Fossey in “Gorillas in the Mist” and more!
In the end, Dublin proved a fitting ground for the festival “that aims to misbehave.” Cycling off from the RDS with a residue of misbehaviour, I ran a red traffic light, completely oblivious to the Garda officer watching me from a distance.
Scolded, fined and humbled, I continued my journey to the Merchant’s Pub, one of three venues of re:publica.
Life on the Internet
Founded in Berlin in 2007, re:publica offers thought provoking ideas about life in the age of the internet. Berlin’s 2016 event attracted 10,000 people. The instalment in Dublin, was the first of its kind in a new city. Four founders, 12 employees and 60 devotees had hopped on a plane the day before. A hundred and fifty locals joined them.
The objective here was far more abstract than at Uprise, the pace much more measured. Spread between Merchant’s Arch, Generator Hostel and Smock Alley Theater, it gave much more time and space for thought. This was central to the event. Instead of supporting the disruptors and creators of new technology, it focused its audience on the tech companies and technology that are already central to our lives.
From its strong track record of fueling many social uprisings to its serving up as a recruitment platform for ISIS, all the way to its proclaimed failure as a tech company, Twitter was one of thet companies and technologies up for dissection. If the #BUYTWITTER session was any measure, it is the good that Twitter has done that people associate it most with. And to save it, they are prepared to run it as a cooperative. The idea has recently been started by Nathan Schneider.
Another session trashed the positioning of Germany as the tech centre of the universe that many people make it out to be. Presented as a German language lesson, the speakers argued that Germany suffers from many of the same problems as anywhere else. Germany’s supposed 4th Industrial Revolution (Industrie 4.0) is non-existent, 80% of all transactions are still in cash, and most Berlin-based startups are funded by the Unholy Trinity – Founders, Family and Friends.
The Dublin audience appreciated the dose of self-deprecation and offered a warm hug in consolation.
The Girl Geek Dinners, a franchise event itself, has been around for many years. The local chapter, originally started by Martha Rotter in 2008, feeds hope, inspiration and pizza. At this month’s event, held at the Science Gallery, Vicky and Christina told their personal stories of involvement with various women-in-tech initiatives.
Christina first heard about Girl Geek Dinners at a conference in London in 2011. When she came back to Dublin she found the city’s chapter in need of resuscitation. She took over and restarted it in April 2012. Vicky had been a regular since it first started back in 2008. By 2012 she had started her own meetup, Coding Grace. In 2015, both met Laura Uzcátegui, who had just started the Dublin Women Who Code meetup, and got involved with it as well. More events and involvements followed.
The three have become the heart and soul of the attempt to get more Irish women into tech, by creating a safe place to learn. They are still as adamant about running these events as ever and expect nothing in return. The only prerequisite is for women actually to show up, as they did on the night of October 20th.
The departure of Web Summit in 2015 left a gap in the market in Dublin for tech events. Some people wondered if the city and its tech ecosystem would be able to fill it. If October 20th is a gauge, we have nothing to worry about. On the contrary, the void is already giving rise to many small and exciting new events. Homegrown or visiting, this fair city will happily accommodate them. It already played host to SaaStock in September. In the coming months, we can look forward to UXDX in November, Dublin Tech Summit in March and many more. You can even cycle between them, just watch the traffic lights.
This article first appeared in the Dublin Globe. For more stories on Dublin's startup ecosystem, visit their website here.
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