Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Web Summit: Web gurus to speak to Ulster start-up firms at key event

Technology companies to set out stall ahead of major Dublin showcase

By Margaret Canning

Around 150 Northern Ireland technology start-ups are gathering today for the Belfast Web Summit.

They will be able to pitch to investors ahead of the biggest technology event in Europe, the Dublin Web Summit, later this week.

The former chief operating officer of Zynga - maker of the notoriously compulsive FarmVille game on Facebook - and James Whelton, the founder of Coder Dojo, will speak at the Belfast event.

The technology companies will then travel to take part in the Dublin event, which last year attracted over 10,000 people - including 60% of the Fortune 500.

The 13 companies from Northern Ireland taking part include DisplayNote, which will launch a new mobile collaboration product called Swoopit, AirPOS Ltd, Glistrr and PulsateDate.

Marty Neill, the chief executive and founder of AirPOS, said the Dublin event gave "flabbergasting" access to potential investors.

And entrepreneur Paul Stewart, the man behind Unibaggage.com, is also using the event to launch his new one-hour delivery app, FETCH.

Allen Martin of fund Kernel Capital in Belfast, which recently announced an investment in DisplayNote, said: "The Web Summit offers an excellent opportunity for indigenous companies to get access to a broad business network ranging from Fortune 500 companies to the high potential start-ups. 

FeedHenry, an Irish technology company supported by Kernel Capital and acquired last year for more than $80m (£50m), will also feature in the Belfast Web Summit.

A spokeswoman for Invest NI, which is bringing the companies down to the event, described the DWS as "an influential and international tech event". 

"It is an ideal event for Invest NI to be attending and exhibiting and for Northern Ireland companies to use as a platform event and for their own networking," the spokeswoman said.

While Invest NI had attended since the event began in 2010, this is the first year it is bringing tech companies with it.

The companies will all be taking part in the Alpha summit, which will put them cheek by jowl with investors.

"They will have the opportunity to better understand the future direction of the sector and the key technologies projected for growth and to assess the competitive environment for their product or service.

"They will also have the opportunity to network with peers and the potential to develop partnerships, collaborations and customers."

In the past, the Dublin event has hosted Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, Netflix founder Reed Hastings, and The Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington.

Invest NI added that preliminary discussions also involving Visit Belfast about having next year's Summit hosted in Belfast had not been successful. 

But the spokeswoman added: "The Web Summit has confirmed that while the main event will remain in Dublin in 2015, they will look at hosting other satellite events in Belfast similar to the Belfast Summit."

A spokesman for Visit Belfast said that it would be a "medium-to-long term objective" to bring the Web Summit to Belfast.

"There was no formal process or no bid process in which either Visit Belfast or Invest NI were involved in that could have brought it here next year, but discussions to explore all future opportunities are ongoing," the spokesman said.

"The Belfast event is significant because it aligns Belfast to Europe's biggest tech event where it would otherwise not be, and brings together many of the 'big hitter' companies with a strong international focus."

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