If you’ve been at Dublin at least once, chances are you know what Temple Bar stands for. So very briefly let me tell you I saw at the Dublin Web Summit this week. The event Paddy Cosgrove brought to life in Dublin is already a reference in Europe. This edition’s 200 speakers attracted more than 4000 people and around 300 exhibitors, including 250 startups from all over the world.
The conferences, interviews and debates followed at a fast pace in three stages, most of the time simultaneously. On two additional stages, 50 startups competed for the Spark of Genius €100k award. The pitch from the finalist contestants brought enthusiasm to the main stage. First, Ovelin introduced WildChords, a leading iPad app that teaches playing guitar as it was a game: it’s like Rock Band with a real guitar. The already famous Finnish startup could very well take the first prize. Following is Vibease, the Singapore and San Francisco based inventor of the long distance remote controlled… vibrator. I don’t know what the success of this business will be, but it certainly gave me and hundreds of others the laugh of the afternoon with the chat mobile app that turns remote control for intimate female massages. For you to have an idea, it all ended with one of the female judges asking where’s the male version, getting an explanation that a man has two hands and answering back “women too”. The third finalist was the Swedish Tictail, a free store creating service with a twist of design and social commerce. Recent launched but with some fast traction and good feedback, it certainly confirms the feeling that e-commerce is back.
The last finalist and winner of the competition is SmartThings, an open platform for the Web of Things to become real on a large scale. These guys made roughly $1.2M in Kickstarter last September on pre-orders of the hub and sensors that will automate the environment around you. With this additional prize, it looks like the future is even more promising.
Let me emphasize this is the main focus of this post: all finalists had something to do with the physical world. I think this is a clear trend these days, a full merge of the virtual and real worlds or, in a more appropriate description, online becoming ubiquitous. We’ll see much of this coming and not only from Mountain View’s cars or glasses. We have powerful, connected computers in our pockets and there’s virtually a sensor/receptor for anything you can think of, at a price close to ridiculous. So you entrepreneurs out there, please thrill us.
It would not make justice to my presence at the summit to end without a reference to the organization. I guess the huge growth can justify much of what happened. But I sincerely hope the organization rethinks some of the things they put up. Or at least tried to. A first comment goes to schedules. There were at least 3 apps covering the agenda and the only way to know what was going to happen was to be there at any moment. Which makes me think of a common startup advice: focus on the solution, not the technology. A second comment goes to investor and startup meetings, a complete mess more appropriate of a fish market, an exercise of chaos and rudeness that only ultra-flexible investors and extremely avid entrepreneurs can bear. Some visitors could not believe what it was, while others were just “since we’re here, why not try our chance and sell this idea we had now”. A third and final comment goes to the startups exhibition (disclaimer: I was there with one of the startups invited). Participating startups filled detailed company profiles twice at the request of the organization but it were not available for anyone participating, an avoidable waste. But at the same time, there was one app and one web site where you could find some of the participating people, though not everyone and not always with one’s consent. And even when some people complained of a mistake or requested for some help from one of the staff members, there was this expression of surprise or impotence. The several startups I talked with had this parallel summit, a self-organizing networking event arising from the absence of anything else, faithful to the spirit of the entrepreneurs, but then again, settled in the absence of the organization. What makes a great organization is not the great marketing that is thrown to everyone’s eyes, it is the great product that solves every customer’s problems.
Having said that, I know that many have done work that will last for some months after the summit and the next opportunity they’ll have, they’ll do the same. If you’ve been there, please drop some comment below. In any case, let us and the organization know what you would like the largest tech conference in Europe to bring in the future.
Additional note: I looked for Bono at the Dame Lane Web Summit parties, but maybe he was still with Bill Gates…