As co-founder and CEO of Web Summit, a tech conference that draws tens of thousands of people from 180 different countries, Paddy Cosgrave knows that meaningful connections are foundational to progress and innovation. After navigating his company through the shift to virtual events last year, Cosgrave has gained some insight into how the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to change the technology industry in the short and long term. He shared his thoughts on the August 26 episode of The Human Factor, a LinkedIn video series hosted by Eric Schurenberg, CEO of Inc.'s parent company Mansueto Ventures.

The future is flexible

Cosgrave notes that now, more than ever, technology allows for flexibility: "With the pandemic, it's abundantly clear that you can start a company from anywhere, and build a team that is based anywhere. That is incredibly inspiring and exciting to a new generation of entrepreneurs."

But Cosgrave doesn't believe this means an end to in-person conferences like Web Summit--which is being held this November in Lisbon. In fact, the data-driven CEO believes that in-person events will likely be more popular for the next one to two years before reverting to a new normal in which the virtual world plays a larger role. 

In the meantime, Cosgrave is focused on using Web Summit's proprietary conference software to maximize meaningful connections by bringing together entrepreneurs, founders, CEOs, political leaders, and cultural figures to discuss hot topics at the intersection of technology and society.

Cosgrave sees taxes as an especially important topic, citing decreasing funds for essential research and development as a potential obstacle inhibiting tech innovation. "We have to do a better job collecting taxes to fund the future breakthroughs that then end up getting commercialized by great entrepreneurs," he says. Cosgrave says a lack of government guidance has slowed the progress of the tech industry, and hopes that taxpayer money will help things pick back up: "If we want breakthrough innovations, we need more funding for R&D."