Belfast Telegraph

Bono-backed world web summit may be on way to Belfast

By John Mulgrew

One of the world's biggest technology events, supported by Bono and a host of other tech-savvy celebrities, could be on its way to Belfast.

Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave said it was possible the Dublin-based technology event could be held in Northern Ireland in the coming years.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph at the launch of two sister events - which will draw some 5,000 people to Belfast in June - he said there was a chance the city could soon host the main Web Summit event.

It drew more than 22,000 people to Dublin last year, which Bono spoke at. This November will see the U2 frontman return, along with speakers as diverse as Jemima Khan, Irish rugby player Jamie Heaslip, supermodel Lily Cole, Twitter president Adam Bain and actress Eva Longoria.

Visit Belfast and Invest NI had made a bid last year for Belfast to host the Web Summit itself, but were unsuccessful.

"I actually think it is possible," Mr Cosgrave said. "We've been approached by many other cities around Europe. They have experience of hosting large events. I think it's possible, but it would be so many people - the city would be mobbed."

He's bringing two big conferences to T13 this summer - MoneyConf and EnterConf - ­and he's hoping to grow the events to attract as many as 15,000 people over the next couple of years.

"I think it's going to be great. It's the first year, so low expectations, and hopefully everybody is surprised, he said. "For me, year one is about scale - having the right people.

"Maybe we can bring it to 10,000 or 15,000 people. People look at the Web Summit and see 22,000 people, but people forget it was 400 people at the start. In terms of the city, if you go to a major city you have to be as big as the Olympic Games - but whenever you go to somewhere like Dublin or Belfast, when people arrive at ­the airport, everyone will be talking about the conference."

The Dubliner has grown the Web Summit from a modest 400 people five years ago, to a massive crowd of 22,000 - packing into Dublin's RDS in 2014. And aside from the main conferences set to be staged in Belfast during June, there will be a host of fringe events as well as numerous organised pub crawls in the Cathedral Quarter.

He's yet to unveil some of the big-name speakers from the world of technology, as well as film and entertainment, who will attend the Belfast events.

Mr Cosgrave is a big fan of the U2 frontman. "Bono has just been incredible," he said.

"He gets a hard time, yet behind the scenes he does so much and he can never say, 'I've done this or that' because he'll just get hammered even more."

Further reading

Web Summit organisers announce EnterConf and MoneyConf sister events are to take place in Belfast

Watch Web Summit 2014 Dublin: Eva Longoria, Bono mix with top tech heads from Twitter and local entrepreneurs 

Belfast Telegraph