13 good reasons why start-ups should attend Inspirefest 2017

20 Jun 2017

Inspirefest founder Ann O’Dea on stage at Inspirefest 2016. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

From amazing founders and thought leaders to forward-thinking investors, Inspirefest 2017 has it all going on for start-ups about to embark on a world of change.

Here are 13 good reasons why founders with an eye on a more diverse and braver new world of science, technology and leadership need to attend Inspirefest 2017 from 6 to 8 July.

The networking

13 good reasons start-ups should attend Inspirefest 2017

Inspirefest 2016. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

The power behind Inspirefest is the power of brave thinking that challenges the known limits of technology, diversity and inclusion. Inspirefest brings together a coterie of some of the world’s best entrepreneurs, thinkers and doers in an intimate, chilled-out and ultimately inspiring setting that is ripe for networking.

Be at the coalface of disruption

Accenture’s Omar Abbosh: ‘Be the disrupter, not the disrupted’

Omar Abbosh, chief strategy officer, Accenture. Image: Accenture

Some of the speakers at Inspirefest are at the absolute cutting edge in their respective industries. For example, Inma Martinez of Deep Science Ventures, a data scientist and a pioneer in the mobile and digital industries and one of Europe’s top talents in social engagement, will be discussing AI and real-world data. She will be joined by Intercom’s top data scientist Karen Church and David Moloney, director of machine vision technology at Intel, who sold his company Movidius to the chip giant last year.

Omar Abbosh, chief strategy officer at Accenture, will also be speaking about how he keeps a 400,000-plus organisation as disruptive as possible through calculated bets on innovation and acquisitions.

Amazing founders and entrepreneurs

13 good reasons start-ups need to attend Inspirefest 2017

Sugru founder and CEO Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh. Image: Sugru

As well as accomplished founders such as Moloney, local and global entrepreneurial talent will be on show, including the creators of iconic video game Doom, Brenda and John Romero. Sugru’s Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh will outline her experiences of innovation and funding, as will Soapbox Labs founder Patricia Scanlon and Branch co-founder Matt Flannery. Susan O’Brien of New York-based Smigin will also be there to impart wisdom about the founder journey.

The investors

13 good reasons start-ups need to attend Inspirefest 2017

From left: Astia CEO Sharon Vosmek and managing director Victoria Pettibone. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Presenting a unique opportunity for high-growth start-ups with diverse teams, Inspirefest has linked up with Astia to host an Investor Masterclass for attendees as well as an Entrepreneur Showcase. Astia seeks start-ups that have at least one woman founder, holding equity and significant influence. In 2016, the Astia showcase resulted in the company’s first investment in an Irish start-up, SoapBox Labs.

Astia CEO Sharon Vosmek has cultivated quite a reputation for frank and revealing panel discussions at Inspirefest 2015 and 2016, and you can expect this to continue in 2017 with an investor panel that includes: Shelly Porges, former adviser to Hillary Clinton; Anne Ravanona, Global Invest Her; and Carol Gibbons, Enterprise Ireland.

Breakthrough technologies

Marcus Weldon

Marcus Weldon, president, Bell Labs and corporate CTO, Nokia. Image: Pete Byron

Inspirefest is a tech conference, so therefore expect to be thrust to the forefront of science and innovation. Nokia CTO Marcus Weldon, who is also president of Bell Labs, will present a keynote on transformational technologies. A luminary in the industry, Weldon combines his vision with the power of Bell Labs to create a unique innovation engine, with the overall goal to ‘invent the future’ of the networking and communications industry.

Cutting-edge technologies such as blockchain and, of course, the resultant ethical issues will also be discussed at Inspirefest by Amor Sexton, a senior innovation manager at Citi’s Innovation Lab in Dublin, where she drives disruption innovation in the financial sector.

Breakthrough science

13 good reasons start-ups need to attend Inspirefest 2017

Dr France A Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation in the US. Image: NSF

Astrophysicist and the director of the $7.5bn National Science Foundation in the US, Dr France A Córdova, who is charged with advancing all fields of scientific discovery and technological innovation, will present ‘A Life in Science’.

Dr Niamh Shaw will discuss ‘Inspired by Space’ while Dr Arlene O’Neill and Sarah Tully will present ‘STEM Pedagogy Reinvented’. They will be joined by Dr Lisa Looney of Transforming Engineering Learning and the founder of Raw Science TV, Keri Kukral.

Cutting-edge researchers

No discussion on pushing the frontiers of science would be complete without being up close with the researchers who are doing just that. This year, for the second time, we put out a call to PhD researchers to impress us. After a painstaking process of evaluation, eight finalists have been selected to present at Researchfest 2017, which this year comes to the all-new second stage in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, as part of the core Inspirefest conference. At lunchtime on Thursday, 6 July, these eight Researchfest finalists will have three minutes to win over an international audience and an esteemed panel of judges.

Art and culture

13 good reasons start-ups need to attend Inspirefest 2017

Ana Matronic, author of Robot Takeover and member of Scissor Sisters. Image: Suki Dhanda

Entrepreneurs with an eye on the future of entertainment and digital media will be blown away by the ensemble of talent at this year’s event. Observe a conversation with Rhianna Pratchett, lead writer of Tomb Raider, on storytelling in games, or listen to Eimear Noone, composer and conductor of World of Warcraft, tell her story.

The future in a world of robotics will be discussed by Ellen Roche of NUI Galway and Ana Matronic, author of Robot Takeover and member of Scissor Sisters.

New York-based artist Catherine Owens will discuss 3D, VR and the arts, while Domhnaill Hernon of Nokia Bell Labs and Philip King, founder of Other Voices, will speak about their experiments in arts and technology.

Top industry leaders and advocates for change

13 good reasons start-ups need to attend Inspirefest 2017

Recode editor Kara Swisher with Gizmodo CEO Raju Narisetti at Inspirefest last year. Image: Connor McKenna

Start-ups hoping to get a handle on the future of the media industry shouldn’t miss Gizmodo CEO Raju Narissetti’s exploration of ‘News Media in a Post-Truth World’.

The impact of tech on society will be discussed by Michelle Cullen of Accenture, while technoethics in a digital society will be explored by Emer Coleman, former Digital Projects director with City Hall London and an adviser to the Irish Government on its open data initiative.

The future of work and leadership

Lesley Tully, Bank of Ireland

Lesley Tully, head of design thinking at Bank of Ireland. Image: Paul Condron (@CondronPhoto)

‘How We Will Work in 2020’ will be discussed by Sandra Henke, head of people at Hays Worldwide, along with Adrienne Gormley from Dropbox, Thomas Jelley from Sodexo Institute for Quality of Life, and Lesley Tully, the head of design thinking at Bank of Ireland.

‘How We Will Lead in 2020’ will be explored by Symantec board director Anita Sands, as well as the the managing director of Accenture in Ireland, Alastair Blair.

Fantastic Fringe events at Airbnb and Facebook

13 good reasons start-ups need to attend Inspirefest 2017

Writer and actress Echo Brown at Inspirefest 2016. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

At this year’s Inspirefest Fringe, you can enjoy world-class live music, comedy, banter, interactive exhibitions and family coding workshops in some of Dublin’s trendiest offices, and maybe even indulge in a spot of wakeboarding.

The diversity

The hallmark of Inspirefest and what sets it apart from other so-called tech conferences is its devotion to the pursuit of diversity.

Founding member of Project Include, software engineer and diversity advocate Tracy Chou will discuss engineering inclusion in Silicon Valley and across the world. Known for her work in pushing for diversity in tech, Chou helped to kick off the wave of tech company diversity data disclosures, with a GitHub repository collecting numbers on women in engineering.

A reasonable start-up rate

13 good reasons start-ups need to attend Inspirefest 2017

Delegates tuck in during Inspirefest 2016. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Unlike other tech conferences that will empty your bank account and make you stand beside a shoebox while the investors are kept hidden behind velvet-roped security, access to this exceptional ensemble and cultivating experience will set start-ups back just €150. That includes lunch on both days and an opportunity to mingle with luminaries, investors and fellow founders at the event itself, and at the chilled-out Fringe events on both evenings. How’s that for a deal?

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years