Is Web Summit XFactor for tech?

Re: Reconsider

First, what a fantastic article DHH, thank you!

Having meandered around WebSummit now for a few days, dipping into the odd talk and shuffling through the swarm of StartUp micro-stands, although the show itself being a fantastic production, on occasion it has been a little disheartening to see the incredible blur of hopeful Next Big Things who are so obsessively venture-focussed.

It is clear that there is an abundant wealth of talent at this conference but it is feeling more and more like the web/tech industry (as is apparently represented here) is rapidly homogenising. X Factorism? Uberism?

Growing businesses nowadays is a simple, prescription formula it would seem. People even proudly talk about their company’s success based on their “scale” and linear progression along the “Seed funding to IPO” journey.

Perhaps it’s just the rebel in me feeling this as we may be losing the battle to the Internet equivalent of The Man. ‘Disruption’ can be great, but in reality also often means putting others out of work and simply adding to the portfolios of the already-very-wealthy. I hope the beautiful potential that has always excited me about the Internet wasn’t just The Swinging 60s of the tech era.

In fact watching tech rock-stars sitting on stages fit for U2 can make me feel more more like I have come to see One Direction than Nirvana.

I guess too it helps remembering what losing my job in 2000 was like and what the tech world looked like just a year before…

Waterstone's Online back in the day

[Back in ’99 at Waterstone’s Online, pre-crash — courtesy of Wayback Machine]

Your article addresses so many important points and for anyone who hasn’t read it, please jump straight there.


In regards to WebSummit itself as a production it has been beautifully executed. Everything from the mobile app to the signage has been pretty flawless.

The shining nugget so far at the point of writing this, has definitely been the refreshing, progressive insights from Yancey Strickler around Kickstarter’s transition to becoming a Public-Benefit Corporation. Like a breath of fresh air cutting through the pizazz. You guys even got a few friendly mentions in there.

Update: Check out Yancey’s post which is really relevant:

This is not to say too that there hasn’t been some incredible technology. The med-tech innovation is absolutely mindblowing.

In fact this is what I had hoped the summit would be – inspiring, insightful, questioning the status quo, using technology and the Internet for breaking boundaries etc. However – annoyingly I’m also expecting to hear the constant repetition of the words “monetise”, “valuation” and “rounds” permeating the air today too.

Let’s hope that over the next few years there will be a big shift in people’s focus to move towards some long-termist, healthy, holistic attitudes to business, prosperity, society, innovation and even wealth. Maybe the wobble in tech stocks will help to temper the fire and offer all these talented folk a chance to step off the mouse wheel.

Perhaps too being in a major city such as Dublin, where property speculation is as prevalent as London, could be a fitting backdrop for a tech summit right now?

Quick bucks and multi-baggers can only occur for so long.

However, what I would like to think is that soon people will get excited again about the Internet’s incredible potential for positive impact before getting sucked into the speculative whirlpool and FOMO-driven incentives that make the headlines and fill industry publications.

Oh and one last thing David – just in case you don’t know who I am or what I do – that’s OK, I’m not really newsworthy.

Suffice to say my work-life balance is fantastic thanks and I get to spend time with my friends and family and having fun. I also have time to build things I am passionate about and will hopefully make the world just a little bit better for future generations — after all isn’t that what we should all do with our time?