Day 1 at WebSummit

"It's like science fiction is about to happen," said one of the stutterers on the main stage. It may not be that elegant, but it's true.

The night before and the morning after suffered as the fog came down. Flights were delayed or cancelled and connections lost. Many an American got to the UK but couldn't make that final step to Dublin; Heathrow acting as a latter day Ellis Island.

A connection that wasn't lost at WebSummit was WiFi. It was never lost because it never existed in the first place, of course. But all that hardly matters. Part of WebSummit's magic is its homespun, Heath Robinson ethic. And as Europe's home of Tech start-ups, nothing could be more appropriate.

Its slightly scattered, 'mend and make do' feel suits the fast evolving technology scene. While the likes of CeBIT and MWC are held at traditional corporate venues with months of build-up, WebSummit's erection appears faster than a teenage boy's.

It's a friendly, democratic conference. Yes of course there are VIPs, and money secures prime access, but as people walk across the show you notice that they are bumping into each other. Genuine tech and business superstars stroll down the walkways without fuss and bother. It's like walking through an edition of Wired, with all your mates there too.

Likewise, unlike CeBIT or MWC, where acquaintances meet through prior bookings, at WebSummit you simply wait to come across them or ping them a note within the WebSummit app. It's casual, it's easy, it happens naturally.

As you walk around the show, you can't help but notice that this huge technology event is housed in a fading façade of past grandeur. Spread across Royal Dublin Society (RDS), the adjacent Leinster Rugby stadium, echoes of the Dublin Horse Show and what appears to be the remnants of a cattle market you get the impression that technology is a bastion of hope.

The only fly in the tech love-in ointment is the officious security. I've never had to show a wristband as often, even at the likes of Glastonbury. Nor have I ever seen such obsession with walking through, or leaving via, a particular doorway. Or, indeed, a particular side of a doorway. Bizarre.

Presentations are generally 15 minutes - a real TED vibe. There were a few presentations that seemed to drag on for a lot more longer. The more traditional names in IT can't help but to over-market themselves, with trite videos and an appalling inability to not plug a product. Some of the newer companies, in contrast, appear to have given no thought whatsoever as to what they might say to an audience of 1000s. I lost count of the number of "you knows, likes, kindas, I means..." and other speech fillers. Thankfully most managed to be somewhere between the flawless corporate presentations that lacked content or merit, and the genuine but stuttering and unprepared.

What comes across so incredibly strongly is the palpable excitement around technology, and not just from lecherous investors. The phrase "within my lifetime" came up a number of times. Incredibly innovative, technology-minded people are genuinely excited at the prospects of what this era of technology can bring to the world. We have a level of technology - from cloud at the back end to billions of devices and sensors at the front end - that can enable a revolution in the way the world operates and the lives people lead.

"It's like science fiction is about to happen," said one of the stutterers on the main stage. It may not be that elegant, but it's true.


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