Hilary @ O2 Ideas Room

The Great Facilitator – Paddy Cosgrave

We’re really happy to announce our partnership with Business & Finance Young Leaders programme. As always here at O2, we’re about ideas. And what fresher ideas to dip into then those of people, who in their prime, are making significant inroads into business with their fresh and lateral  thinking. So enjoy this feature – we’ll be adding to it with video content. And remember if there are any questions you’d like us to put to these Young Leaders, let us know by commenting on this section and we’ll see what we can do.

The Great Facilitator.  Paddy Cosgrave

The tagline of Paddy Cosgrave’s website is, “I set up things. Some things work, some don’t.” Modest words indeed for a young entrepreneur, who at 27 years of age, has already sold his first business and set up a second. 

Cosgrave’s first venture, which he co-founded with Oisín Hanrahan in early 2009 on the back of the European elections, was a political platform called MiCandidate. The concept was simple. MiCandidate collects information on European politicians – their policies, backgrounds and experiences – and places them on one single platform. Syndication rights are then sold to media organisations across the world. The venture has been a hit since its teething days when The Independent Group and The Advertiser Group both syndicated within eight weeks of it launching. By then the platform was feeding information to a handful of big international publications including The Independent and The Daily Telegraph in the UK, TV5 Monde in France and RTBF in Belgium.

After the management buyout of MiCandidate, Hanrahan departed to work on a mobile start-up while Cosgrave set to work on one of Ireland’s most talked about new ventures – The Dublin Web Summit. Started in 2009, The Dublin Web Summit held its fourth event back in October when Chad Hurley, chief executive of YouTube, Jack Dorsey, inventor of Twitter and Niklas Zennstrom, co-founder of Skype were just three of the key speakers.

Part of the event’s success has been down to the way it has developed. Reading the needs of his market, Cosgrave has redesigned the conference format so that it focuses not just around guest speakers but also around a timetable that facilitates networking among established businesses, prospective employees, entrepreneurs and investors. October’s event featured 50 different master classes which ranged in topic from the digital media market to a not-for-profit slot about fundraising and mobilising volunteers. The conference has also become purposely wide-reaching, focusing on areas that span the extent of the technology industry. Today tickets are in such high demand that their sales cover the entire cost of the event, leaving every penny taken in sponsorship fees as profit.

The Dublin Web Summit has also branched into a separate event that Cosgrave has set up. A private, invitation only affair, Founders brings together 100 of the top web industry minds in the world, drawing its guests as much from up-andcoming web ventures as it does from success stories like Facebook, Google and Twitter. The inaugural event in October was addressed by former president Mary Robinson and Peter Sutherland of Goldman Sachs. And while Cosgrave has plans to continue the event in the future, he notes that it is tied to neither the Dublin Web Summit nor Dublin as a location and may be hosted abroad in coming years.

When he isn’t hobnobbing with internet tycoons Paddy Cosgrave has a number of other projects on the go, most of which are non-profit and his favourite of which is the Undergraduate Awards. Again the awards was a project that Cosgrave co-founded with Oisín Hanrahan. Their aim was to recognise the hundreds of dissertation and theses that are written every year by Irish undergraduates. “Some of these papers are outstanding – some of them have been published in international publications – and they are written by students who are
only 20 or 21 years of age,” he said. “And all that that student ever gets at the end of all that blood sweat and tears is a mark on the end of the page and maybe a note from a lecturer saying ‘great work’. I think there has got to be more to it than that. There has to be a way that the people writing these outstanding papers can be recognised and in getting recognised can help to encourage other students.”

Between networking events, the Undergraduate Awards and his work on founding the Phil Speaks during his time in Trinity College (which aims to bring public speaking and debating to students in secondary schools and universities across the country), Cosgrave seems to have found his success as a full-time facilitator – be it students or the next big web developers. His message for other entrepreneurs is a simple one. “Failing isn’t a problem – not trying is a problem. At Founders, what those guys in the room had more in common wasn’t success, but failure. Most of them had failed more times than they had succeeded. But all it takes is one success.”

Tickets for the next Dublin Web Summit on March 8th go on sale today with prices starting at €99. Speakers at the event will include Dan Cobley, marketing director EMEA, Google and Ben Parr, co-founder of Mashable, the leading social media blog


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