I really don’t often comment on the news but the last couple of weeks I have seen a consistent pattern of attack on WebSummit by those who really should know better, I won’t name names but I count the people who are attacking WebSummit + Paddy Cosgrove amongst my friends and I want to put forward a view from someone who is independent of any commercial bias – i.e. I don’t own a newsite (that is affiliated with other events) or run my own events.
I have been to WebSummit for the last 4 years (it could be 5 I lose track!) – I remember the day very vividly that Paddy reached out to me out of the blue with what seemed at the time like a crazy made up story, he told me he was getting together hundreds of founders, including the likes of Jack Dorsey, Chad Hurley, Michael Birch and many more for a Founders only event, I must admit at the time I was pretty damn skeptical, I had never heard of the event which was unusual, and it just seemed ludicrous that you could get that number of big name founders to all gather together in one spot. I called a few other Founder friends and they confirmed they were also going. I immediately called Paddy back and said I would attend.
I won’t cover F.ounders in detail but it has been over the years (along with Founders Forum) been the most important event I attend each year – every year I meet and connect with people who have in some way massively influenced me and help me on the journey. Also the importance of F.ounders is that it is in itself a massive draw – and it lets Paddy use that to get the biggest names in the world on stage.
Every year I spend a good amount of time at the WebSummit as well (F.ounders occurs after the end of WebSummit) – I don’t often sit and listen to the talks, but given the big names that every year speak and that the halls are bursting to the seams most of the time I can only believe they are good. I like to spend my time walking the halls looking at what the startups are doing – and this gets to the core of the attacks that WebSummit is getting, that he is charging for startups to attend.
As a starting point – every year when I walk around what absolutely blows me away is that the halls are literally solid with people, that every single pod / booth with a startup on is overloaded with attendees. DataSift has had booths at pretty much every major Tech conference – and I can tell you 90% of them you spend most of the time twiddling your thumbs while you wait for people to come out of the sessions. That includes other big conferences like Techcrunch Disrupt (we were finalists in 2010? in SF)
Back to the money – I have had to pay for pretty much every event we have had a booth at, (I think we got some free space one year back in the days of FOWA) – but in general we paid (in cash or sometimes in-kind of supply of our own services), and each time I did what every startup should do – look at the cost and look at what the potential upside is. It is massively disingenuous to say that startups should not pay, everyone has a business model for events, things have to get paid for, booth setup costs are huge, so either sponsors pay, investors pay, attendees pay, or the startups pay or some ratio of all of them.
I don’t like ‘free’ – it means I have become the monetisation – i.e. someone else is paying for me to be there – and they want something from me. To say anything different is just trying to hide the model.
So in summary – in general with your eyes wide open – you mostly get what you pay for in this world (always negotiate!) – WebSummit is an amazing event for getting in front of a huge audience of developers and investors.