Last night saw Trinity College Dublin host the Dublin Web Summit 2.0, an event that gathered together some of the best minds from both the Irish and the global internet scene, with Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg talking about everything from the beauty of coding to embracing failure.
The first of the two panels assembled for the night saw Irish entrepreneurs give their thoughts on starting out, establishing a successful technology company and what Ireland needs to be doing now to attract business.
Dylan Collins of Jolt Online, Fred Karlsson of Donedeal.ie, Ciaran Bollard of MUZU TV, Colm Lyon of Realex Payments and Chris Horn, co-founder of Iona and a member of the Innovation Task Force, shared their thoughts on technology entrepreneurism and the difficulties involved in a sustainable business model.
“Controlling scale and matching revenue to scale is key," said Bollard of MUZU TV, who attributes some of his business success to great support from grassroots bands.
Adding that MUZU TV is about to expand in Europe he name-checked rock band Kasabian as a good example of a band that has embraced the online music model by gathering content into one channel and allowing fans to contribute.
He explained that while bands are getting income from ads being served on MUZU TV, the service is free to the user. MUZU TV is currently the largest online music-video resource on the web.
What was talked about at the Dublin Web Summit 2.0
Both Collins and Lyon talked about making their first sale, operating on a shoestring budget and with minimal staff, while Horn described his first sale as one of the most thrilling moments of his life.
Eschewing ‘knowledge economy’ rhetoric as moderator Mark Little put it, the panel didn’t use inspirational quotes and theories on how better to encourage innovation here in Ireland but gave real insight into the realities of getting a start-up off the ground.
The biggest message of the night came from Horn, who said that Ireland needed to change its bankruptcy laws to allow people who fail to start again while adding that "restoring competitiveness in the economy" is just a race to the bottom.
Mullenweg, Newmark and Wired UK’s editor-at-large Ben Hammersley also had something to say about attracting high-tech business in a global economy.
Newmark said: “We need a business culture that doesn’t stigmatise failure,” adding that success involves good customer service and not only listening to your customers, but then following through.
“Customer service, even imperfect, is a competitive advantage,” he added.
One of the most powerful observations was Mullenweg, whose advice for those wishing to succeed in the online space was: “Learn to code. Scripting is the new literacy.”
Hammersley, who spoke at length about information overload, online content and the future of the media, simply said: “Make it beautiful."
On these terms we can compete, he said, explaining that all the usual advice to countries looking to attract business, eg, tax breaks, usually fizzles out whereas getting the business culture right and “being a wonderful place” that attracts the right people is more important.