With early-bird tickets selling out pretty fast and volunteering positions just after opening up, I thought it’d be worthwhile to recount my experience, as a volunteer, of The Websummit Dublin from November 2013.

About The Websummit

The Websummit Dublin has grown to be one the largest tech events in the world, starting out with 400 attendees in 2010 and growing to 10,242 last year. Tech giants from all over the world flock to the RDS arena including Google, Amazon, Dropbox, Microsoft and many more. The halls are filled with hundreds of promising startup booths, each one anxious to catch the eye of any of the numerous VCs that could be found roaming around including Google Ventures, Upfront Ventures, Union Square Ventures, a16z… You get the idea. The Websummit is where things happen.


Attending The Websummit

Early bird tickets are currently priced at 649 (normal price is 1649) for attendees. However, if price proves a little too prohibitive (which I bet it might) there are some fantastic volunteering opportunities available.

Its important to remember that several thousand people descend on Dublin from all parts of the globe for this huge event, so hotel rooms and B&Bs fill up pretty quickly.

Volunteering At The Websummit

When I registered to volunteer last September, I requested a Stage Runner position – in my mind, this seemed like the most prominent position to meet people. I was right.

The day prior to the opening of the Websummit, the volunteers congregated at the RDS for registration. We were separated into our respective groups and were shown around the five separate staging areas. Not only was I surprised to see several hundred volunteers, but also the distances they had travelled – MBA students from San Francisco, PhD candidates from Finland, budding entrepreneurs from Brazil, and even a few folk from county Kerry – all with the intention of learning and networking with like-minded people.

The Websummit Highlights

It is remarkably easy to meet the people you want to meet and do the things you want to do, as long as you have a game plan. As a volunteer, you pretty much have unparalleled access anywhere in the arena. I arrived about 90 mins early each day (that is 2.5hrs before the general public have access) to walk around the various startup booths to see what ideas were ‘trending’ and who was doing what.

As a Stage Runner, your job is to escort the guest speakers from the holding area to one of the five staging areas and back again afterwards. On average, you’ll get a solid five minutes of one-on-one time with your guest. I rarely took a break (the Happy Pear provided plenty of delicious refreshment throughout the day!) and always kept an eye on the program so that I could escort the guests I wanted to meet.

So, just who exactly did I meet at the Websummit?

  • Ben Parr – co-founder and Managing Partner of a seed stage VC fund and former co-editor of Mashable. Ben was a great guy and only too happy to share his outlook on social media and the tech space.
  • John Engates – John is CTO at Rackspace and we got to briefly talk about the evolution of their cloud-computing strategy. It has been interesting to watch that evolution take place, at Rackspace, over the last 12 months.
  • Kevin Rose – Kevin was super busy, from hosting talks with famous faces to delivering his own too. And when I proposed a certain idea, he happily gave me his email address. Which I never followed up on. Yet.
  • Patrick Collison – CEO of Stripe, which was recently valued at $1.75 billion – not bad for a four year old company! Patrick was a true gentleman and only too happy to have a chat.
  • Cindy Gallop – Possibly the most formidable woman you’re ever likely to come across, Cindy was a pleasure to talk to. A couple of weeks later, Cindy was kind enough to share her experiences to our Masters class at UCC via a Skype conference.
  • Gary Vaynerchuk – Gary was simply packed full of energy with a smile that made him instantly approachable by everyone he spoke to.
  • Scott Harrison – Scott ran up to me in a panic, he had mislaid his laptop. Fortunately, I managed to track it down at the production area by the main stage. We bro-hugged.
  • Liam Casey – Anything hardware-related, Liam and his team at PCH are the people to talk to.

I also managed to get a minute with Robert Scoble, Matt Mullenweg, Tony Fadell and Enda Kenny. Shervin Pishevar, Drew Houston, Elon Musk and Oisin Hanrahan were also on my target list but proved evasive!

I’ve long been a fan of Mark Suster’s blog, Both Sides of The Table, and had been monitoring closely when he’d get the call up to the main stage. The ten minutes I got to talk to him made the entire two days of volunteering worth it for me. Mark was clearly in his comfort zone, and, just like his blog posts incredibly open and insightful. I hung around to watch him on stage before walking him back to the holding area. On the way back, however, Mark was spotted, and several entrepreneurs asked to speak with him. Mark happily obliged. Two hours later, as I passed the same spot escorting more speakers to the stage, Mark was still there sharing his wisdom to the queue of people that had now formed.

That is just how things happen at the Websummit though.

There are many reasons to attend the Websummit – the networking opportunities, the friends you’ll make, something new for the résumé, identifying potential job vacancies, inspiration for your next business venture…

This year promises to be the biggest Websummit yet. Go!

Told you this guy was awesome!