Paddy Cosgrave of Web Summit is a divisive figure in Irish society. Some view him as a utopian tech conference god, bringing jobs, investments, and prestige to the Irish innovation paradigm, whereas others view him as basically Bernie Madoff with a 3fe loyalty card, fleecing startups and looking damed beautiful while he does it. This writer thinks the truth lies somewhere in between. Cosgrave pulled out of several high profile interviews with RTÉ following a fractious Morning Ireland interview this week. He agreed to speak to me because I run Not The RTÉ Guide on Twitter and that’s, in his own words, “the like, opposite of RTÉ?”. Despite being granted exclusive access I wasn’t afraid to ask Paddy the difficult questions that everybody wanted to know the answers to. I sat down with Paddy for an hour in the Art For Art’s Sake area of the Web Summit which was practically deserted for the length of our interview.
Paddy Cosgrave entered the room alone except for a PR, stylist, PA, assistant PA, and social media maven. I was shocked at how small his entourage was. He tossed back his famous curls, folded his legs underneath him and cradled a cup of tea throughout the interview. He ordered us a plate of cakes. I must have looked surprised because he laughed that famous laugh and fixed me with one of his famous looks, the looks that launched a thousand startups. “People are always surprised by how much I eat” he chuckled, “I have a high metabolism.”
HeadStuff: I was expecting you to have a whole crew with you.
Paddy Cosgrave: I think it’s easy to get swept up by success and surround yourself with Yes People. the people that are here with me today are the people that have been with me from the beginning, before the Web Summit, even before the Dublin Website Something, which was what we originally called it before my PR Julie, who’s from Yorkshire…
Julie: Ay Oop
PG: …shortened it to Web Summat. We changed it to Web Summit after our social media maven, Friiksøn, told us that all the club kids in Oslo were attending summits. James Murphy and the Dewaele Brothers had been holding summits in basements all across Scandanavia and I thought, “What if instead of bands and DJs, we got very, very rich people to come onstage and talk for a bit about taking risks and not being afraid to take risks and how only losers never take risks?”. The rest is history.
HS: Wow, amazing stuff. So I suppose the big question on everybody’s lips, and I’m sorry to have to ask you this, we’re getting along so well and I…I really want you to like me, I’m a huge fan of yours, I was at all the summits, when I was a child I used to pretend I was at a summit in front of the mirror at home using a tennis racket as a Web Summit lanyard, but, I’m a journalist first and a fan, huge fan, MASSIVE fan, second so here we go, here’s the question, I’m gonna ask it now so I hope this doesn’t affect our burgeoning friendship, sometimes you just gotta dive in and ask the difficult question so…the Web Summit’s moving to Lisbon next year?
PG: Yes, it is.
HS: Thank you Mr. Cosgrave, I hope you appreciate that I didn’t want to have to ask you but I think our readers will get closure now that we’ve put the matter to bed.
PG: Are you ok? You’re sweating a lot.
HS: Sorry, it’s just hard to confront your heroes like that.
PG: It’s fine, I understand that people are curious about the thinking behind decisions like these. You’re a really good journalist and an even better friend.
Paddy leans across and squeezes my hand encouragingly. A glow emanates from his hands and I feel like everything in the world in manageable, like even though I’m just one person I can make a difference; Ideas for startups flash through my mind quicker than I comprehend, Uber but for dairy farmers, drones that can order at McDonalds drive-throughs, HeadStuff but for cats. I notice Paddy’s PA write “HeadStuff but for cats” down on her pad.
HS: Did I say that one aloud?
Paddy Cosgrave smiles.
PG: No my child, we are connected by the glow, the glow of entrepreneurship, all our ideas are now shared, what’s mine is yours and vice versa, we are at one with the entrepreneuniverse and the entrepreneuniverse is bestowing its bounty upon us all, but in a real sense, I will be the only one making money from this, I have an infrastructure in place, I can go from idea to IPO in the time it would take you to put the end of this sentence in bold.
I look down at my iPad to figure out where the B button is. When I look up, Paddy is making it rain with share certificates for HeadStuff But For Cats. Paddy laughs. I laugh. The glow around Paddy Cosgrave grows stronger. He sprouts a pair of wings, innovative solar wings that send excess power generated back to the grid. Then he sprouts more wings, then a third set, a fourth, each more innovative than the last. The room is filled with his glow. He is the sun and I am space debris, soon to be destroyed, pulled in by a force so much greater than I could ever hope to be. Paddy Cosgrave is still laughing. His laugh is the sound of a desert wolf falling upwards into an unforgiving void, it is beautiful. Paddy Cosgrave abruptly returns to his human form. It is quiet.
PG: Good interview man.
HS: Ah cheers, good luck with the rest of the summit.
And then he’s gone.