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‘Indian engineers are Silicon Valley’s secret weapons’

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The Times of India | Shalina Pillai & Shilpa Phadnis | TNN | December 4, 2015 |

BENGALURU: Irish entrepreneur Paddy Cosgrave started Web Summit, which some call the world’s most imporant tech and startup event, in Dublin in 2010 along with friends Daire Hickey and David Kelly. Cosgrave used Skype to convince Silicon Valley’s bigwigs, including Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and Skype founder Nik as Zennstrom, to speak at he inaugural event. The summit now attracts over 40,000 visitors. Cosgrave spoke with TOI on a visit to Bengaluru.

Excerpts: Web Summit uses proprietary algorithms to pair entrepreneurs and potential investorsmentors.How does it work? When I started Web Summit, I presumed that other people use software to make conferences better. But that wasn’t he case. We launched a Web Summit app that recommends to you the people in an event who you might most benefit from meeting. We figure that out by looking at different data points — your interests, your friends, who you follow on Twitter and Facebook. We put our own graph on top of that. We also see actions inside the app, who you are talking to. And using machine learning, we figure out which talks you might like to go to. We also use algorithms to seat people at dinner tables –the least influential are connected to super influencers.

Was there a challenge to attract high-profile speakers initially to Dublin? Their first reaction was “Who the hell are you”, “Have you held a conference before?” When I shared the idea of the conference, they said “It sounds good, is it for a conference at Palo Alto,” and I’m like “No. It’s in Dublin.”. “Dublin? Where’s that?” So it was very hard to start. We are not a tech blog. We are the only anomaly. We provide value by connecting people.  Uber’s Travis Kalanick came to the second edition of Web Summit in 2011 and raised funds at the event. How did that happen? Travis then had a tiny star Travis then had a tiny startup which only worked in San Francisco. Nobody thought much about it. Everyone thought it wasn’t really a game changer. In Dublin, (through the algorithm) he met an investor called Scott Stanford, who was with Goldman Sachs. He hadn’t heard of Uber. He realized there was a funding round about to be closed. Travis also met Shervin Pishevar from Menlo Ventures in Dublin. Scott and Shervin didn’t know each other and they didn’t know they had invested in Dublin at the same time and the deal for both those funds were done in Dublin. That happens a lot. It’s a really big story.

 A 100 other Ubers happened that year that added up to a much bigger story than Uber. You can engineer that if you can figure out who should meet whom. No wonder, ours is the fastest growing conference anywhere in the world.  How do you see the Indian environment? About five years back in Ireland, I set up a junior Nobel prize for undergrads (an initiative that aims to identify and connect the world’s top students). For the last three years, the award has gone to Princeton, MIT and Delhi University . What’s phenomenal is how well Indian undergrads do globally and at these awards programmes. For decades, the secret weapon for many companies in Silicon Valley have been Indian engineers. It takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team to raise a company , and the real differentiator is the engineering talent.  –  Courtesy

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