Visionary entrepreneur Paddy Cosgrave started Web Summit from absolutely nothing. He fought hard to make his dream a reality in just 4 years. In this in depth interview he describes how he went from hosting Web Summit in his apartment to employing over 100 people & receiving more than 20,000 annual Web Summit visitors.
"Web Summit started in my bedroom just over 4 years ago. 3.5 years ago we moved to my sitting room. 2.5 years ago to an office. We’re now 100 engineers, data scientists and more, and growing faster every day. We’re not a conference company, we’re a technology company.
Scaling from 400 to 22,100 attendees in 4 years is a product of our approach: we engineer serendipity for an industry we’re passionate about: tech conferences. While traditional conference organisers hire event managers, we hire engineers and data scientists. Why? VentureBeat wrote a short piece recently on why, as did I. But in short, in the words of Marc Andreessen “software is eating the world”, rapidly disrupting every industry, and conferences will be no exception. Media companies and conference companies still do a fantastic job – don’t get me wrong – but data science has the potential to change the value of conferences for attendees, and dramatically so.
We’ve been slowly pioneering that change, and so far enough people like what we’re doing that we’ve been able to grow unexpectedly fast. In Web Summit’s second year, 2011, 30 startups chose to exhibit. For Collision’s second year, so far 403 out of 500 startups have chosen to exhibit. You’ll find a list of those incredible startups below. By the time May comes around, over 1,000 startups from more than 50 countries will have placed their trust in us for Collision and will exhibit.
In other words, Collision is growing far faster than Web Summit ever did, and by orders of magnitude. And yes 400 to 22,100 in 4 years is fast, but Collision is going to get far bigger, far quicker. And hopefully, in terms of quality of outcome for attendees, it will be far more valuable than year two of Web Summit because of the technology that underpins how we structure everything from a seating plan at dinner to the group you find yourself surrounded by on a pub crawl.
Most importantly for many attendees we’ve become incrementally better at finding interesting startups to invite to exhibit. For example here are just 15 startups who exhibited at Web Summit in November who have since raised $270 million.
Of course, we’re not responsible for that $270 million, that’s down to visionary entrepreneurs, who are prepared to hustle, and then hustle some more. But these startups don’t come to our conferences for the good of their health, they’re here to meet people, and that’s something we’re getting better at facilitating at an ever growing scale and sophistication.
Speaking of hustling entrepreneurs, today we’re excited to announce 3 incredible ones for Collision. They’re the founders of Slack, Github and Lyft. They’re part of a new wave of billion dollar tech companies. Back in 2010 when we started, Github was a small dot in the ever expanding software ocean. It’s now a giant island that underpins so much of the modern software economy.
So, we’ll be in Vegas in May, as will quite a number of visionary entrepreneurs, young startups, respected investors, seasoned CEOs and influential media. Through Collision, we’re building something a little different for attendees as compared to traditional tech conferences. That incrementally improving difference seems to be just enough to propel Collision’s growth to a level Web Summit never experienced, and Web Summit certainly experienced hyper growth for a tech conference. Anyway, just maybe you’ll be on one of those flights in May to Vegas for Collision. Just maybe we’ll be on the same flight, who knows!
Either way, I hope to see you in Downtown Vegas, and if not there then somewhere else in the world where we’re sprinkling our software driven approach to conferences."
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Source: Web Summit Blog