The Web 2.0 Conference in Dublin was a big success and was well worth attending. It was great to finally put faces to a lot of names in the Irish tech world and beyond. I went out the previous night to an informal meet-up arranged by Robert Smith. The layout of the place unfortunately was not conducive to talking to lots of the people who turned up which meant I didn’t get to talk to Marc Canter about Microformats and Structured Blogging until the following day.

However the wide range of people out that night made it very entertaining. We had everyone from the Webbiest of Web 2.0 companies in Fergus Burns of Nooked, to Justin Mason of SpamAssassin fame, to Jonathan Hill of Infacta, to Julian Ellison and Dr. Yongchun Ji from Tablane to Bernard and Antoin from aSpoke who make incredibly funky overlays for your laptop - they are less Web 2.0 and more Marketing 2.0.

The main event itself was kicked off by Kevin Sherry, the head of the High Potential Startup Unit in EI who was in the unenviable position of having to give a definition of Web 2.0 in front of many experts in the field. Kudos to him for making total sense. One of the key issues for the day was the fact that many of the companies involved in this area are based outside of Dublin. This is not an accident, it is a key attribute of the type of technologies being used and being developed. It allows small teams and distributed teams to create applications with minimal local supporting infrastructure. Long may it continue.

I was particularly impressed by the speech given by Judy Gibbons of Accel. She hit directly on several topics which have been high in our thoughts recently. Her focus on mobile and many of the tough challenges associated with that platform firmed up some of my thinking. And when she mentioned PC-Mobile interplay and the unique opportunities presented in that area in Europe, I got some validation that we were on the right path.

John Collins then introduced four companies, each of which then gave a presentation:

* Fergus Burns presented [Nooked]( who are deeply embedded in RSS and all of the new business that will be driven from that. I finally understood the business model!  


* Jonathan Hill presented [Infacta]( who are not really Web 2.0 but have a very solid Internet business, They have recently done a deal with Nooked so we will see some integration of opt-in e-mail marketing and RSS.  


* Walter presented [Sxoop]( and [PXN8]( I noticed a lot of the panel scribbling during this one! Again, I hadn't realised the number of licencing models that Walter had and came away even more impressed.  


* Julian from [Tablane]( gave one of the best presentations of the day. Interesting, slick, funny. But I still don't get it. The word "Wiki" kept popping into my head. 

And then it was Canter-time! I’ve only ever heard recordings of Marc in action, I had never seen him live. He lived up to all the expectations. Loud, funny, riveting, obnoxious, correct. I think he may have been a bit of a shock to the genteel world of Irish business. It is not often you hear the phrases “fk that st” and “make your nipples hard” at an EI conference. My only personal disappointment was that he had so much ground to cover that uF and SB only got a small mention. His People Aggregator looks like it is a winner.

I took three short videos of Marc in action using my Nokia N70. The picture quality is poor but the sound quality is fine.

Marc on business success

Marc on Digital Identity

Marc on Aggregation

Apologies to Adam Green and the gang doing the round table, I missed most of it but when I came in near the end I caught some interesting and robust exchanges.

Over lunch I got to meet James Corbett finally and it was fisticuffs in the foyer over Structured Blogging. James has a good mini-review of the day over at Eirepreneur. I also cornered Jeff Clavier to discuss Microformats and we quickly bounced around from uF to Edgeio to Google Base to Google world domination to Microsoft and Live Clipboard to mobile form factors. Jeff gave his speech right after lunch and like Judy had some real gems to share. He had a lovely turn of phrase to describe many of the successful Web 2.0 sites: “affinity based communities”.

Jeff was followed by three more Irish company presentations:

* Neil Flanagan of [Alatto]( presented their hugely impressive Mobile application. I can't figure out how it works but it looks amazing. They appear to have solved the biggest single problem in creating applications on a mobile device - the input device. Their system minimises the number of clicks required to get to all your most important apps and features. I really want to try this out.  

* Fran McKeagney of [Inner Workings]( gave a very slick presentation on their company. Unlike most Web 2.0 companies they are in the enterprise space. As he pointed out, it is a much slower sales cycle and is not considered very sexy. I must admit that I didn't really get a great feel for what the core product does from his presentation. These guys are already VC funded and I am sure they provide much advice to others looking into that option.  

* Brian O'Doherty from Herbert Street Technologies presented their product suite. This appears to be a massively featured CMS whose focus is on security. The product appeared to have every possible feature one could think of. I'm amazed that I have never heard of them before this. It looks like they are going after verticals with highly customised versions of the product. Another enterprise oriented company and a highly impressive one at that.

One issue that came up during the day was that VCs generally only get involved at Series A funding. They all said that startups should use Angels for their initial funding right up to launch and proof of concept. If that is the case, should we not have had a room full of potential Angel investors there rather than VCs? One audience member pointed out that, unlike the US, there is a big disconnect in Ireland between those who would have the funds to take a flutter on a startup and those who want to do a startup. This is because many of those potential investors made their money on things like property and stay well away from areas they do not understand. It was pointed out that EI should be providing those links. It is obviously a minefield for EI with serious potential conflicts of interest issues but if they simply acted as a facilitator between groups of client technology firms and groups of non-technology investors then that would be a big step forward.

Due to the five hour drive to Cork, I had to leave early. So I missed the presentations given by Daniel Waterhouse of 3i and Nasser Batley from Dresdner Kleinworth Wasserstein and also the final Q&A by Marc. I’d be interested to hear what people thought of those sessions. I did nab Marc for a few minutes to talk about progress in Structured Blogging and he aptly (considering the topics of discussion during the day) pointed out that they need funding to continue the development of the plug-ins and move further along the roadmap. Hopefully someone with deeper pockets than ourselves will get involved here. One thought which I mentioned to him was that it would be great if a site or Firefox plug-in (like Performancing) could be developed which allowed people to write SB posts without needing anything installed on their blog. This would pull in all of the people on Blogger and the other platforms and start creating critical mass. Marc replied that the People Aggregator should provide some of that functionality.

There was a good contingent from Enterprise Ireland and particular praise should go to to Brian O’Malley and Mary Boyle for their great organization of the event. However I will get a small dig at EI for organising a Web 2.0 event but having a web-site which is utterly broken in Firefox.

One group that I had no interaction with were the Irish VCs in the audience. Did anyone else talk to any of them to see what they thought of the day?

[tags]Web2Ireland, Web20, Web2.0[/tags]