Despite some technical difficulties, day one of Web Summit 2014 was something to behold as 22,000 visitors, including leading CEOs and eager entrepreneurs from over 100 countries crammed the halls of the RDS in Dublin.
There was a buzz in the air among the start-up companies lining the exhibition spaces, among them scattered were representatives of the global elite such as Instagram, Google, Coca Cola, and more. More than 500 speakers will address the crowds over the three day conference. There are stands from more than 1,000 start-ups and stands from a selection of the more well established companies scattered around the campus.
A highlight of the afternoon saw the Web Summit Founder Paddy Cosgrave joined on stage by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, newly appointed US Ambassador Kevin O’Malley and 70 others to ring the Nasdaq Opening Bell.
He told the crowd of thousands at Center Stage, “We want the risk takers and the innovators here in Ireland. We intend to be the best in the world to do business and there is no more pro enterprise country in Europe.”
His message, streamed live into Time Square in New York, was, again “we are wide open for business.”
When asked about Ireland's diaspora watching from aboard he said the opening bell should be a “clarion call.” Ireland is finding its feet again. He told the diaspora to be ready to come home.
Among the hundreds of speakers taking to the stage today was John Collison, President and Co-founder of the online payment system Stripe. As he arrived at Centre Stage the 24-year-old Collison, from Limerick, was described as an “icon of the tech scene.”
Now valued at an estimated $1 billion Stripe is the payment platform of choice for ApplePay and the Chinese Alipay, which is owned by the Alibaba group. Facebook and Twitter are also utilizing Stripe's platform.
He said in ten years time he believes “you’ll see everything happening on mobile phones and the identity problem will be solved.”
The young tech whizz, who boasted that Stripe has never had a security breach to his knowledge, said that payment services need to have security written into their DNA. He explained that the beauty of Stripe is that customer’s credit card details are stored but never reach the merchants' servers which makes their system secure.
A la Steve Jobs, Collison and his brother are serial dropouts. He told the crowds at Web Summit that he dropped out of high school and then went on to drop out of Harvard, and his brother Patrick similarly dropped out of MIT to pursue their own project.
He said his parents were always very supportive even though it was definitely an unusual path to take. He added that both his parents started their own businesses and, to an extent, understood what their sons were doing.
Collison added “I think you have to let people explore what they want to do.”
And how right they were! In just four years Stripe has gone from being just the two Collison brothers to 175 employees based in Silicon Valley. It seems that as social media and the Chinese market continue to expand so too will the Irish brothers' tech company.
The toast of the town for the last two days has been Eva Longoria. The actress, most widely known for her role in “Desperate Housewives,” spoke about the difficulties women in business continue to face. The 39-year-old actress said she has never let her fame define her as it came to her later in life. She also spoke about how women in business “can have it all...just not at the same time.”
She also told the crowds, “I've always been political. I campaigned for Bill Clinton when I was 17…I try not to talk about Hillary Clinton because we have a current President who needs a lot of public support."CoderDojos and their young Coder Ninjas are manning a booth for the duration. The company is an open source, volunteer led network of free computer programming clubs for young people aged 7 to 17. These folks are the coders of the future.
The group, which was founded by James Whelton (Co Cork) and Bill Liao, now boasts 450 CoderDojos teaching young people how to code in over 45 countries around the world.
The only hiccup at the tech summit that slightly marred the early portion of the day was the lack of WiFi at the RDS. Paddy Cosgrave, emceeing the main stage, made a pointed remark, explaining that the RDS had been unwilling to allow a third party to set up the system. The ironic technical issues were resolved by the end of day.
Of course, the amazing Guinness marketing team simply couldn’t resist:
It should be a great week.