Fintech leaders are reviewing whether to fulfil speaking engagements at Europe's biggest technology conference, in light of controversial comments made by its founder over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The comments made by Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave have already led to a widespread backlash, with Israel boycotting Europe’s biggest tech conference and major firms pulling out of the summit.
The tech entrepreneur posted on X last week:
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. War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are.
— Paddy Cosgrave (@paddycosgrave) October 13, 2023
He later posted an apology, saying:
“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 apologise deeply.”
Tech.eu asked several fintech leaders whether, in light of Cosgrave’s comments and subsequent apology, they would still be speaking at the conference.
Grover, the German tech rental Unicorn, said its CEO and founder Michael Cassau would not now be speaking at the Web Summit.
Cassau was scheduled to hold a keynote on stage at the event.
Bunq, the Netherlands-based neobank, said it was reviewing whether its CEO and founder Ali Niknam would still speak at Web Summit.
A bunq spokesperson said: “We will take a closer look in the upcoming weeks and decide what this means for our Web Summit attendance."
Likewise, Berlin-based B2B BNPL firm Billie, whose CEO and co-founder Matthias Knecht is due to speak, said it was “closely monitoring” the situation and has not made a final decision yet.
GoCardless said its co-founder and CEO Hiroki Takeuchi would be speaking at Web Summit.
It is understood that others have yet to discuss the matter internally.
Some of the fintechs contacted by Tech.eu declined to comment. Other fintechs with speakers at the event include Stripe and Robinhood.
According to the Business Post, German manufacturing giant Siemens has pulled the plug on attending, as has US chip maker Intel which has “withdrawn from this year’s Web Summit”.
Former X-Files actress Gillian Anderson, who was due to appear on stage to discuss her new soft drinks venture G Spot, has also pulled out.
According to the Irish Independent, actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt, rapper LL Cool J, and entrepreneur Steven Bartlett are no longer listed on the Web Summit’s online “speakers page".
A public page on Notion titled Tech Condemning Terror is tracking ongoing developments and tabulating a list of cancellations.
The event is set to take place between November 13 and 16 and will include comedian Amy Poehler, who is the headline guest, film director Neil Jordan, and Nick Clegg, the president of global affairs at Meta.
Last year, more than 70,000 attended the event, which was co-founded by Cosgrave in 2009.
Along with running Europe's biggest tech conference, the group also runs events in Brazil and Hong Kong and made £27.5 million in revenues in 2021.
Web Summit did not respond to a request for comment.
Lead image: Dan Taylor