Why Paddy Cosgrave hired Data Scientists to grow websummit from 400 to 20k attendees in just 4 years

Paddy Cosgrave Web-Summit


Arguably no technology conference in history has grown faster. Somehow we’ve achieved that growth with no background in the conference industry and no resources to speak of, and all from a pretty peripheral location called Dublin.

In a post on the Web Summit Blog, founder Paddy Cosgrave explains that this growth has been largely propelled by data science, or in his view, network science.

While conference companies hire event managers, he hired physicists with PHDs in areas like complex systems and network analysis. They were asked to create and optimise social networks.

We love stuff like Gephi, NetworkX and Datasift, and algorithms like eigenvector centralityForce Atlas and Fruchterman-Reingold.

As Paddy explains it, if you make good connections at Web Summit, it’s not by accident.

While traditional conference companies fret over manually curating seating plans, compiling speaker lists and handpicking invites for networking events, we approach the challenge from a technical and mathematical point of view. We build algorithms that take into account who you are and who you might benefit from being on a pub crawl with or at a table with or in a meeting with.

He calls this approach “engineering serendipity”, and he believes it’s the secret to their success.

… what we lacked in experience, funding and location, we’ve made up for by building software and using data

Read his story here

If you want to understand more about Social Network Analysis, come to our free Hands-On sessions the Brussels Data Science Community is organising in November:

Hands-on : Social Network Analysis Challenge part 1

Thursday, Nov 6, 2014, 7:00 PM

transforma bxl
Avenue du Pérou 80 Perulaan Brussels, BE

30 Business & Data Science pro’s Attending

During this hands on session we will focus on Social Network Analysis.The Format:Don’t expect  presentations, this is a hands-on session. You will be asked to collect and share datasets, work on it with your own tools, together or in group and present your method and outcome on the second day.The Challenge:We challenge you to come up with a …

Check out this Meetup →

Hands-On: Social Network Analysis Challenge part 1

Brussels Data Science Meetup
Added by Philippe Van Impe
Thursday, November 6, 2014
7:00 PM
transforma bxl
Avenue du Pérou 80 Perulaan
I’m going

Change your RSVP

During this hands on session we will focus on Social Network Analysis. The business case & Challenge: Using you own tools and methods and the available data of Twitter or other social media drivers, we challenge you to come up with a good way to …


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Coursera – Social Media Analysis – Michigan Univerity

University of Michigan


The Social Network Analysis MOOC started this week on Coursera.
The course is given by Lada Adamic, an assiciate professor at MU who took a sabbatical year to go and work at Facebook. A year later she’s back with this inspiring course.
Lada Adamic will introduce you to social network mechanics and concepts. The tool of choice in this case is Gephi, which is a free to use graph/network visualisation tool.
This 8 week course combines video lectures with homework assignments during which you will learn to use Gephi and apply the freshly acquired knowledge on real data sets.
The course offers the possibility to apply for a certificate.

As a personal note from Glenn Vanderlinden:

I already went through the first couple of units and it looks rather interesting. It makes use of Gephi, which is to an extent an alternative to Neo4j. Might be interested for people who attended the last Meetup or who are interested in graph/network analysis. I hope this is useful for the community.


Lada Adamic

Lada Adamic