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The founder of Web Summit is a case study for what not to do

Published by Fortune October 19, 2023

Tickets for Web Summit, a splashy tech conference attended by roughly 70,000 people every year, have been on sale for months. But with just a few weeks to go until this year’s event in Lisbon, a number of high-profile tech industry figures vowed to boycott the event and excoriated Web Summit cofounder Paddy Cosgrave.


For executives who opt to speak out, the fast pace and increasingly partisan nature of today’s news cycle mean bracing for a nonstop barrage of potential blowback, says Jordan Zaslav, a political communications expert who is the general manager at Axios HQ. “For folks who feel like their heads are spinning now, it’s a good time to take a breath and make sure that they feel comfortable in their approach—because it’s going to be tested frequently,” he says.

Zaslav pointed to the Republican Party’s troubles finding common ground on a speaker of the House of Representatives as an indication of how divisive and acrimonious public debate has become. “Looking ahead to an election year, you can look at what’s happening on the House floor even to just see within one party how much disagreement there is,” he says.

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