Paddy Cosgrave: Ireland 'seems to be rolling from one unimaginable scandal to the next'

The Web Summit founder is not ruling out some sort of Dublin event in the future...

Paddy Cosgrave: Ireland 'seems to be rolling from one unimaginable scandal to the next'

Paddy Cosgrave. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave says Ireland seems to be "rolling from one unimaginable scandal to the next".

After several years of hosting the tech conference in Dublin's RDS, Cosgrave chose to move Web Summit to Lisbon in Portgual following a public dispute between the company and the Irish Government.

The company continues to operate in Dublin, however, and this week they announced 40 new jobs for their Dublin headquarters.

As planning continues for the second Web Summit in Lisbon later this year, Paddy spoke to Bobby Kerr on Down to Business about both the past and future of his company.

With the benefit of hindsight, how does Paddy feel about the controversy that led to the Portugal move?

He observed: "I think one of the things you learn is politics moves a lot slower than maybe the private sector. I think I was probably at times always wanting to move faster - not realising there was a well-established system for sending letters and waiting weeks and months for an official response.

"That is the way things are done in Ireland. You've got to respect that. Sometimes it leads to incredible scandal - we seem to be rolling at the moment from one unimaginable scandal to the next. One minute you can put babies in the ground, and the next minute you get gifted a hospital it seems."

However, he also suggested he doesn't have any regrets about his approach. "I think as an entrepreneur you've always got to be pushing the door," he observed.

'21st century success story'

Photo: Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

Paddy suggested that Web Summit in its current form has outgrown Dublin - and indeed argued that only a few cities in Europe would be able to host the main event after Lisbon.

However, with his company now running a number of other conferences around the world - such as MoneyConf in Madrid and RISE in Hong Kong - he is not ruling out some sort of Dublin event in the future.

"I think Brexit opens up opportunities, and I think it opens opportunities for Ireland as well," he argued. "I think Dublin is this amazing city without which we would never have gotten Web Summit to the level of success that it got to - and maybe it could be a great city to host events in the future."

It is clear, despite the controversies, Paddy still has plenty of affection for his homeland.

As he told Bobby: "I'm proud to work with a group of people who've built a very modern Irish company that is a 21st century, I think, success story - small, albeit - out of this country."

He also spoke about another controversy involving his company, which broke out in 2014 after he suggested they would only hire people with a 2.1 degree if they graduated from Trinity College. Any other graduates from Irish universities would require a 1.1.

“A 2.1 in one university would not equate to a 2.1 in another university," he said at the time.

Has his opinion changed on that matter? 

He recalled: "We got over 10,000 job applications after we said that [...] It worked as a fantastic mechanism for hiring people who didn't go to Trinity.

"I think [it led] to people who were so aggrieved that somebody had said this that they were like 'I'm going to show this guy, I'm going to send in a CV and get a job - despite the fact that I didn't go to Trinity and I didn't get a first'".