Paddy Cosgrave, the CEO of Web Summit, has resigned from his position following a wave of criticism and boycotts over his comments on the Israel-Gaza conflict. His resignation comes in the wake of several high-profile companies and organizations withdrawing their participation from the annual tech event. Cosgrave had initially faced backlash for remarks he made about Israel’s response to attacks by Hamas. In a statement, he expressed regret that his personal comments had become a distraction for the event, the team, sponsors, startups, and attendees.
Cosgrave announced his immediate resignation on Saturday. The CEO had come under fire for his contentious comments on Israel, particularly its response to terrorist attacks by Hamas. The backlash led to several prominent companies pulling out of the Web Summit event.
Cosgrave’s resignation was first announced in Bloomberg. The Web Summit, now a 14-year-old business conference, hosts one of Europe’s largest annual tech events. The organizers stated that a new CEO would be appointed as soon as possible and that the event, scheduled to start on November 13 in Lisbon, would proceed as planned.
AOL also covered the news, mentioning that Cosgrave had issued a statement earlier in the week apologizing for the “profound hurt” he had caused. Despite the apology, several companies continued to withdraw their participation.
Bloomberg further added that high-profile attendees, including Alphabet Inc. and Meta Inc., had pulled out of the show following Cosgrave’s remarks. The organizers confirmed that the show would go ahead as planned and that a new CEO would be appointed soon.
“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 reported by usnews.com.
The controversy has led to a significant impact on the Web Summit, with major companies like Meta, Alphabet, Amazon, Intel Corp, and Siemens, among others, cancelling their plans to attend the event. A group of Israeli investors also issued a joint statement calling for a boycott of the event.
In addition to the companies, individuals like David Marcus, former president of PayPal and previously responsible for digital currencies at Facebook, and Gary Goshen, CEO of the Israeli AI-specialized company “AI 21 Labs,” have also announced their decisions to boycott the event.
The controversy comes against a backdrop of ongoing conflict in the Israel-Gaza region. On October 7, militants from Hamas launched attacks on various Israeli areas near the Gaza strip, resulting in the death of approximately 1,400 people and the kidnapping of 210 hostages. In response, Israel has been conducting ongoing airstrikes on the region, leading to over 4,000 deaths.
The Web Summit controversy and Cosgrave’s resignation highlight the complexities and sensitivities surrounding political comments in the tech industry, particularly when they involve international conflicts. With the event set to proceed as scheduled, it remains to be seen how the absence of key participants will affect its success and reputation.