Lisbon’s famed Web Summit, dubbed as one of the biggest technology conferences in the world and due to bring tens of thousands of people to Lisbon from Nov. 13 to 16, is going to have far fewer speakers than planned this year — if it takes place at all.
On Friday, Oct. 13, Web Summit Chief Executive and founder Paddy Cosgrave tweeted his thoughts on the Israel-Hamas war.
“‘I’m shocked at the rhetoric and actions of so many Western leaders & governments, with the exception in particular of Ireland’s government, who for once are doing the right thing,’ Cosgrave wrote [on Friday] in a post on X, apparently referring to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s response that Israel was engaging in collective punishment. ‘War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are,’” according to Reuters.
On Monday, Oct. 16, Cosgrave took to X again:
To repeat: War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies & should be called out for what they are.— Paddy Cosgrave (@paddycosgrave) October 16, 2023
I will not relent.
Israel said it would pull out of the summit the same day over the CEO’s comments.
Cosgrave issued an apology on Oct. 17.
“I understand that what I said, the timing of what I said, and the way it has been presented has caused profound hurt to many. To anyone who was hurt by my words, I apologize deeply,” he wrote in a post published on Web Summit’s website.
By the end of the day, however, several major investors and venture capitalists — including Andreessen Horowitz General Partner Alex Rampell, Accel partner Philippe Botteri, Y Combinator’s Garry Tan, Sequoia Capital’s Ravi Gupta — said they would not attend the event due to Cosgrave’s comments on the war, according to Bloomberg.
Following the withdrawals by the world’s largest tech companies, Cosgrave resigned on Saturday, Oct. 21, according to Reuters.
“Unfortunately, my personal comments have become a distraction from the event, and our team, our sponsors, our startups and the people who attend,” Cosgrave said in a statement made to various news outlets.
“I sincerely apologise again for any hurt I have caused.”
A spokesperson for Web Summit told Reuters that the organization would appoint a new CEO as soon as possible.
“Portuguese Economy Minister Antonio Costa Silva’s attendance this year is confirmed, the ministry said via email on Friday,” according to Bloomberg.
As of Sunday, the Web Summit’s speakers page also still listed among its scheduled speakers Portuese Prime Minister António Costa and President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, as well as several CEOs and co-founders, representatives of the media, actors, United Nations staff, and others.
The Israel-Hamas war has so far prompted few resignations making the headlines aside from Cosgrave’s. Two BBC journalists reportedly resigned over the networks’s coverage — for different reasons.
The other big resignation to date has been by Josh Paul, who resigned from his post in the U.S. State Department on Oct. 18.
“In my 11 years I have made more moral compromises than I can recall, each heavily, but each with my promise to myself in mind, and intact. I am leaving today because I believe that in our current course with regards to the continued – indeed, expanded and expedited – provision of lethal arms to Israel – I have reached the end of that bargain,” Paul wrote in a note posted on his LinkedIn profile.
Paul explained his decision to PBS NewsHour on Friday: