At the moment, the State of Israel is licking its wounds from one of the most murderous and horrific attacks it has ever experienced since its establishment. This terrible event, which was followed by three weeks of rocket fire on Israeli civilians, finally clarified to the world and to those who were not clear, about the urgency and severity of the threats to the Israeli people.
So when Paddy Cosgrave blamed Israel for violence following vile and unprecedented acts of terrorism on its citizens, he was rightly denounced by an entire industry that promotes progress and freedom in the world. And the response of leading technology companies (Google, Meta, Intel, etc.), by canceling participation in Web Summit is a testament to Israel’s essential place within the worldwide high-tech community. His comments, however hurtful, could not drive a wedge between Israel and the rest of the world.
The Web Summit conference that started about 15 years ago has gone through an interesting path with Israeli high-tech. As someone who has participated in the conference for many years as an entrepreneur and investor, I came to know how important the conference is for connecting entrepreneurs, people in the venture capital industry and investors from all over the world. Web Summit has also strengthened the ties between Israel and Ireland through a variety of non-governmental initiatives, a channel that was far more successful than direct diplomatic relations.
Israeli high-tech has also developed and intensified greatly in the last 15 years, as Israeli companies and their executives and leadership have represented the cutting edge of the global high-tech industry. Representatives of the Israeli high-tech industry have spoken at Web Summit every year, and so it was supposed to be at the upcoming conference as well. All of this of course went down the drain with the statements of your predecessor. Many leading industry professionals from Israel and all over the world have expressed that they will no longer step foot at the Web Summit conference.
Katherine, congratulations on your appointment as CEO of Web Summit. With your assumption of leadership, you now hold in your hands the opportunity to turn the page and restore credibility to the conference, restore its relations with the Israeli high-tech community, which is undoubtedly a critical element of the global industry, and place Web Summit on the right side of history.
I am extending to you a request and an offer, to hold your next conference in Israel. Not as a political statement or intervention in a conflict, but as a moral and humanitarian statement. What kind of world do we want to live in? In a world of ignorance and fundamentalism, limited freedoms? A world where elderly people are kidnapped, children are mutilated and tortured, and women are raped and trampled? Or in a world of innovation and progress? The choice is simple and it needs to be made publicly by leadership in our shared spaces, now more than ever. Silence, apathy, and moral equivocating will only allow evil to grow and spread – to the detriment of the rest of the world.
Therefore, I would like to offer our Startup Nation as the venue for next year’s Web Summit. Under your leadership, I believe that Web Summit’s impact will continue to be a force for good. We are proud of the groundbreaking technology that Israel shares with the world from cyber to automotive, fintech to climatech. And we are proud of the place we have made for ourselves in the global high-tech community. I hope you will come see for yourself, and share the Tel Aviv high-tech scene with the rest of the Web Summit participants.
Managing Partner, Amplefields Investments