Web Summit to license conference software, U.N. first customer

FILE PHOTO: Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave speaks at the closing ceremony of the Web Summit, in Lisbon, Portugal, November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes/File photo

LISBON (Reuters) - The organisers of Europe's biggest technology conference, Web Summit, said on Wednesday they would start licensing out their conference software, with the United Nations as their first customer.

Launched in Dublin in 2010 with just 400 participants and hosted in Lisbon each year since 2016, Web Summit hosted 104,000 attendees online in December and now partners with some huge names including Google and Booking.com.

The annual conference featuring speakers from global tech companies, politicians and activists was forced to move online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Its conferencing software, initially designed to complement networking at in-person events, was further developed by Web Summit's own staff in response to COVID-19.

It now allows attendees to network in three-minute video chats using a feature called 'Mingle' as well as watch hundreds of online talks.

Co-founder Paddy Cosgrave told Reuters earlier this year some of the world's biggest conferences would take place on Web Summit's platform, with one paying 6.5 million euros to use it.

On Wednesday, Web Summit said the United Nations Development Programme will use its software to host the Istanbul Innovation Day from March 23 to 25. It is unclear how much the UN will pay.

"In 2022, we hope to partner with other great events," Cosgrave said.

In November, Web Summit is hoping to welcome 70,000 attendees to Lisbon plus up to 80,000 more online.

Virtual events have boomed during the pandemic, attracted several startups such as UK-based virtual events provider Hopin, which raised $400 million last week from venture capitalists in a fundraising round and has more than doubled its valuation to $5.65 billion in four months.

(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee, Additional reporting by Catarina Demony, Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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