I’m writing this from an over-priced San Francisco basement apartment that seems to have a direct conduit to the ferocious heat of the earth’s molten core.
Looking through listings of technology meetups in the Bay Area, where I might find some reprieve, I catch myself comparing the smattering of weekly meetups to those of my current home in Dublin. It occurs to me that you can learn a lot about a place from the types of events it breeds. This is probably top of mind for me since the folks at Startacus have just asked me to write a blog post elaborating upon the Dublin startup ecosystem based on my experiences as a co-organizer of Drinkabout Dublin.
I’ve spent this past year since moving to Dublin, mostly trying to get a sense of the place—where important people tend to congregate, what companies have the most momentum, and who’s actually getting shit done. So now, with the perspective of an ocean and a continent of separation, it’s interesting to think a bit more about what Dublin’s regular tech events suggest about its larger startup ecosystem.
I’m probably not the best person to curate a comprehensive list of Dublin’s events, not to mention it’s already been done fairly well here. But I do have some thoughts on the events held in the city, and how they can give the uninitiated a glimpse of Dublin’s startup personality.
Let’s start with the big fat elephant in the room: Web Summit. Love it, or hate it, the fact that the massive 20k+ attendee gathering is capable of generating such enthusiasm and vitriol is testament to its stature as Europe’s tech event behemoth. Having never attended, but living five minutes away from the venue, my experience is that the city seems to come alive with a not altogether unpleasant mix of youthful entrepreneurial optimism and laddish bravado; it’s for sure a great time to be in Dublin.
But I don’t think that a massive once a year event gives as accurate a rendering of Dublin’s approachable, diverse, and lively tech scene as the smaller, weekly and monthly events do.
Maybe it’s because everyone in Ireland is connected by at most two degrees, living here, you can’t help but feel a sense that the Irish truly believe that a stranger is just a friend they haven’t met yet. This quality is palpable at a number of the city’s smaller events, like Drinkabout Dublin, Startup Hiking, Dublin Beta, and Garden Talks
Drinkabout Dublin which I help to co-organise, is a relaxed weekly event for the startup and tech community. Frequently, our regular attendees will drag along their non-startup/tech friends. They’ll admit with embarrassment “Oh, I actually work in education,” or “I’m not really part of this scene, I’m a mechanical engineer.” Inevitably they’re pounced upon by the EdTech founder, or the guy who has a hardware startup idea. Like many other events in Dublin, differing world-views aren’t just tolerated they’re sought after.
Premised on the idea that Dublin probably didn’t need another meetup in a pub, Startup Hiking is a regular event that is firmly planted in the real world. All indications are that there’s a competitive advantage to be gained by doing things away from our laptops, and inclusive networking at the top of a mountain seems like a no-brainer to me.
Dublin Beta and Garden Talks both presuppose that even billion dollar companies started out as little more than an idea and an entrepreneurial glint in the eye. While Dublin Beta is a more raucous event for nascent tech cos to pitch to crowds of startup groupies, Garden Talks is a more intimate affair, removed from the pub (so refreshing), and allowing founders to ask important and even personal questions to credible mentors and fellow founders. Both are highly anticipated events that book out fast, and are worth marking your calendar for.
Let’s not kid ourselves; it’s tech, so the demographic at most events is going to skew towards this. But there seems to be a genuine commitment by many within the community to improve upon this challenge—even if those efforts often confound diversity with male/female ratios. As a Canadian, I tend to paint diversity with a mosaic of colours as well, but at least progress is in the air. Some of the events that I think best highlight Dublin as an inclusive and diverse ecosystem include Tribe Foodie, Startup Grind and Pub Standards.
Tribe Foodie, while not specifically a tech event, happens to be frequented by techie/foodie hybrids, so it makes for an eclectic gathering of people from around the world.
Owing to its global startup street-cred, crazy impressive roster of speakers, and fancy-shmancy venues, Startup Grind Dublin has no trouble attracting a wide audience with varied backgrounds and interests. People who don’t have time for events, make time for Startup Grind.
A staple of the Dublin tech community, Pub Standards aims to be “open to everyone” and, true to this claim, has developed an anti-harassment policy,and attracts a bustling and diverse crowd sharing a common interest in tech and beer.
Something for Everyone
And then that brings us to all of the other nifty and niche events throughout the city. Love APIs? There’s a meetup for that. Think Growth Hacking is groovy? Join the club. Wanna talk travel? This is massive. IoT float yer boat? All aboard.
Trawling Meetup is a good place to start for anyone trying to find comrades in Dublin who share their particular tech fetish, and subscribing to Startup Digest curated by @RussellBanks77 is non-negotiable.
And if by some strange alignment of the cosmos, you can’t find what you’re looking for, there are plenty of pubs; you’re welcome to start hosting your own fly-by-night event. At the end of the day, despite Dublin’s chilly, damp exterior, the startup scene is warm and inviting, and staying at home is clearly not an option.
This article was written by Alia Lamaadar, who helps to organize Drinkabout dublin, a regular Friday drinks event for the startup community in Dublin. Follow her on twitter.
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