qLegal report: The Best of Web Summit 2017 #1
LGBTQ rights, Donald Trump and Migrant Entrepreneurs
59,115 participants from 170 countries joined the Web Summit in Lisbon last week, including 2,100 startups from across the globe. The tech conference has certainly grown significantly since its establishment in Dublin 8 years ago.
Indeed, Web Summit has a very entrepreneurial inception story . Launched in 2009 by three co-founders, Paddy Cosgrave, David Kelly and Daire Hickey, Web Summit has grown from a confidential event hosted in a Dublin hotel, with approximately 400 attendees, to a world-renowned tech conference. Its focus and discussions, however, remain unaltered: Web Summit strives to connect people with leading experts from major tech players and start-ups to discuss upcoming trends across many industries.
Speakers included controversial ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who did not appear on the main stage but only at Forum, the new exclusive 500 attendees conference taking place alongside of Web Summit for selected executives, with a single private sector ticket cost of €24,950. If Web Summit was originally defined by Bloomberg as the “Devos for geeks”, the Irish born conference has clear ambitions to become the landmark event for a much larger audience, while keeping entrepreneurship and technology at its heart.
This year’s line up of speakers spanned from across the world and political spectrum. Susan Herman, President of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School participated in several panels, notably questioning the tech industry’s persistent lack of diversity, and the privacy trade-off many make for the convenience of technology. ACLU is an organisation which has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States for over 100 years. Perhaps Professor Herman’s most telling participation was during a keynote on LGBTQ rights and following press conference on the recent work undertaken by the ACLU under the Trump administration.
Professor Herman’s emphasized the legal cases which bought about change in the fight for LGBTQ right equality in the US. Her keynote was a timely reminder that no human rights were ever recognised by an evolving mindset and slowly accepting society, but rather conquered by affected people who fought for their rights in the face of adversity, even when there was little chance of winning.
The 1986 Bowers v Hardwick case reiterates the difficulty in gaining basic human rights: in a decade of widespread discrimination against AIDS-positive individuals, the court rejected the challenge to a state law banning homosexual consensual sexual relationships. Susan Herman was quick to add that the very loss of this case ignited grassroots organisation to plan and create campaigns to educate people, eventually changing the perspective of the public opinion. The case raised public awareness of the issue and paved they way for the 2003 Supreme Court decision (Lawrence v. Texas) which finally overruled the law and deemed it unconstitutional.
Most recent cases have focused on discrimination, and have seen big tech giants offering public support. In the instance of Charlie Craig and David Mullins v Masterpiece Cakeshop, a cake owner refused to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding, basing its argument on the principles of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
ACLU’s current legal battle also include transgender rights (GG v Gloucester County School Board (2016–2017)) and the use of bathrooms in Virginia high schools. The lawsuit is filed against the Gloucester County School Board for adopting a discriminatory use of bathrooms policy that segregates transgender students from their peers.
The conference also welcomed Katie Walsh, ex-White House Deputy Chief of Staff, and America First Policies Adviser, Brad Parscale, Digital Media Director for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, for the one-year US presidential election anniversary. Walsh and Parscale were interview by CNN journalist Hadas Gold, in a context of growing tension between the media outlet and the Trump administration.
But what really makes an entrepreneur?
According to John Suh, CEO of LegalZoom, it can be a surprising exposé! He explained that contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs are likely to:
- be educated (50% went to college, compared to 1/3 of the US population),
- have access to a certain amount of resources and a network before taking the leap of entrepreneurship (many entrepreneurs are making close to 6 figures salary by the time they start their business),
- not be running large companies but rather have no employees and work on their own
- be foreign born: those who immigrate are on average more entrepreneurial than those born in the US. 7 out of 10 of the most famous brands ever created were built by foreign born or second generation immigrant entrepreneurs (including Apple and McDonald's).
Mike Butcher from TechCrunch and founder of Hackathon Techfugees, was also keen to challenge the narrative surrounding refugees who are “here to make jobs, not to take jobs”. Butcher highlighted that technology can help migrants connect, as well to integrate in their new country of residence: 70% of migrants participating in Hackathon find a high skill job within 3 months of taking part.
He added “When you’ve got nothing, you become an entrepreneur”.