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Guinness, VCs and vibrating startups – a founder's eye view of Dublin Web Summit Written by Mayel de Borniol and Josef Dunne on 23. October 2012

robot DWS

Babelverse Dublin

Mayel de Borniol and Josef Dunne, the co-founders of our favourite live translation platform, Babelverse, know their startup conferences. The pair launched their first product at The Next Web, won the People’s Choice Award at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC and stopped by at LeWeb and NEXT Berlin. Most recently, they made it to the finals of the startup competition at last week’s Dublin Web Summit.

So, what was it like to be a founder on the floor at Dublin – not cloistered in a speakers’ lounge, but fighting it out in the startup competitions? What tips can they pass on to other startups? How were the parties? The Guinness? First things first…

DWS by nightImage copyright: Web Summits

Having attended many tech conferences in the past year, we thought you may be interested in hearing our experience attending the Dublin Web Summit, participating in the Spark of Genius competition and in the parallel START event (not to mention enjoying some F.ounders after-parties…)

There was an insane lineup of 270 participating startups, including many interesting ones at various stages of growth. The competition for attention was fierce though, most noticeable by the massive queues in front of the “Investor-Startup Meeting Area”, all just to get a couple minutes of face time with a VC – probably not the best way to stand out.

Dodge the queues – use your networks

We avoided all that by reaching out to people in advance – on “conference social networks” (Presdo Match and Bizzabo were used) and working our own contacts – to arrange meetings or simply have them come by our booth.

Present as well were many high-profile speakers, probably thanks to the exclusive F.ounders parallel event, for which they really made the trip to Dublin, and came to speak at the Summit as a bonus…

We cannot tell you about the actual keynote talks, since we didn’t have time to sit in on any of them, but you can make your own opinion by checking them out on video.

robot DWSImage copyright: Web Summits

The startups at Dublin – a dozen to watch

Some of the startups, old and new, that stood out for us include:

Coursera – “take the world’s best courses, online, for free”
45 Sound – crowdsourced concert footage with “perfect audio” – create beautiful and interactive infographics (a HackFwd startup)
Bitcasa – infinite personal cloud storage across devices – make voice and video calls straight from your browser, sans downloads
9GAG – a platform for hosting jokes, memes and other fun
Seedrs – crowdfunding-for-equity, specifically for investing in startups
Taploid – interesting spin on Flipboard and other personalised newspapers (this one’s a webfeed of your social streams, currently in public beta)
Zirtual – San Fran-based marketplace for “virtual assistants for busy people”
CloudFlare – cloud-based services to make your website both secure and swift
Fabsie – aiming to overthrow flatpack furniture by going digital, resulting in assembly times apparently 100x faster than IKEA…

And of course Vibease, with its killer mission of enabling women in a relationship to experience as many orgasms as their male partners, courageously made it all the way to the finals.


A cold, dark pint or two…

Most importantly, there was obviously plenty of partying and Guinness. The START participants for example were treated to a pub crawl and dinner at the Guinness factory, which meant most of us were hungover for our pitches the next day!

We’ve found the night-time activities at these kind of events to be the best opportunity to make meaningful connections with future partners, investors, ambassadors, hires and even friends.

Besides all of that, it was interesting to see a bit of the Irish “startup ecosystem”, which mostly consists of european HQs of global tech companies (Facebook, Google…) and how eager and efficient the local government agencies and service companies (law firms, banks, co-working spaces, recruiters…) seem to be in helping these global companies do business here.

Next stop, Pioneers in Vienna. It claims to be a festival and not a conference… Sounds fun!

Image credit: Flickr user LenDog64


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