Internet Summit chairman steps down over Israel comments

The chief executive of Web Summit, one of Europe’s largest technology conferences, stepped down on Saturday after key sponsors and speakers pulled out of next month’s event following backlash over his public criticism of Israel’s response to Hamas attacks.

Paddy Cosgrave, the Irish entrepreneur who founded Web Summit in 2009, announced his resignation after companies including Google, Intel, Meta, Siemens and payments company Stripe – many of whose executives are scheduled to speak at the event – said they were no longer there. is coming

“Unfortunately, my personal comments distracted from the event, our team, our sponsors, our start-ups and the people attending,” he said in a statement. “I apologize again for any hurt I may have caused.”

A spokesperson for Web Summit said the organization aims to appoint a new chief executive soon. The event, which started on November 13, is still going on.

Mr. Cosgrave’s move is to isolate Web Summit, which hosts events around the world. Its flagship conference, now held in Lisbon, drew about 70,000 people last year and featured speakers that included both senior tech executives and celebrities.

Since Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, business leaders have targeted companies allegedly associated with unfair or negative criticism of Israel. In the US, wealthy donors have threatened to stop giving to schools such as the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.

Mr. Trump urged Western leaders and governments to support Israel in its response to the Hamas attack. The Web Summit’s troubles began a week after Cosgrave’s criticism. “War crimes are war crimes even if committed by the Allies and should be called what they are.” He wrote in X On October 13.

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His comments drew condemnation from prominent tech executives, particularly in Israel. “I will never be a part of your future endeavors and we will never work together again” Adam SinghaltaIsraeli-born ad agency Taboola responded.

Within days of the post, venture capitalists, incl Ravi Gupta Sequoia Capital and Gary Don of Technology Incubator and Combinator, said they were leaving.

Behind the scenes, some tech executives pressured participants to withdraw. And a group of Israeli technology and venture capital firms wrote a public letter saying that they Ignoring the eventAccording to the trade publication Calculus.

Initially, Mr. Cosgrave alternately struck an apologetic and defensive tone, condemning the Hamas attacks and again criticizing Israel’s military campaign. But by Tuesday, he was Issued an apology On the site of the Internet Summit, he said he was defending “Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself.”

It is Mr. That doesn’t seem to appease Cosgrave’s critics.

As of mid-week, the tech giants announced they would not be participating in the conference. And figures outside of tech initially listed as speakers at the event, including actors Gillian Anderson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, were not listed on the Web Summit site as of Saturday.

Mr. It’s unclear whether Cosgrave’s departure will be enough to bring back the returnees. Representatives from global payroll giant Intel and Deel, which pulled their sponsorship of Web Summit midweek, said they have no current plans to return.

Some critics on Saturday criticized Mr. Cosgrave has questioned whether he still holds a majority stake in Internet Summit. His stake was 81 percent last summer, according to company filings in Ireland. A representative for Web Summit did not respond to requests for comment about its ownership.

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It’s not clear how many people will attend this year, though Web Summit said Friday it expects 70,000 people to attend the event, the same as last year.

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