My horrible F.ounders experience


Last year, I went to the F.ounders conference in Dublin, Ireland, and had an incredibly great time. So when I was invited again to moderate some speaker sessions and interviews at this year’s event – which coincided with the Dublin Web Summit, from the same organizers – I definitely wanted to return even if I was aware that I had been traveling a bit too much recently.

I made my way to Dublin on thursday evening, but only had 40 minutes to get from the airport to the hotel where the opening reception was held, and where I was to moderate a panel with Mikael Hed (CEO of Rovio / Angry Birds), Liam Casey (PCH International) and Kevin Rose (who ended up looking suspiciously like Michael Birch).

I got there on time, thanks to a great shuttle service, did the panel, got heckled by Dave McClure and has some fun on stage. Then it was on to a pub crawl with a bunch of great entrepreneurs and investors from all over the world.

In the first pub, I was just talking to the fabulous Brooke Hammerling when Bono – yes that Bono – walked in, came straight over to us and gave Brooke a big hug. I was still trying to grasp if this was really happening when Brooke introduced me to him and said ‘this is Robin from TechCrunch’ to which he shook my hand, I stumbled something like ‘pleased to meet you’, and he gave me a thumbs up. Unreal.

He’s shorter than I thought. And no, I didn’t get any pictures because I’m that loser who respects people’s privacy a lot, even when they’re celebrities. It felt pretty cool though, primarily because I really appreciate that the man still hangs around in Dublin pubs whenever he feels like it, superstardom be damned.

After that it was off to Trinity College and its magnificent library, followed by a great dinner in one of the main buildings on campus, and a live concert of some clasically trained musicians. Oh, and Bono stopped by again.

Then it was off to night caps at the hotel. Great conversations with too many people to sum up, but I remember talking to the founders of Klout, Apture, Huddle, Skype, Socialbakers, Jolicloud, Mendeley, Tuenti, Waze, Mobclix, Mandala Games, Tradeshift and many more.

On Friday morning, I got up with a serious eye infection but did a panel with wooga CEO Jens Begemann and SoundCloud CEO Alexander Ljung at the Dublin Web Summit, followed by a fireside chat with LinkedIn co-founders Eric Ly. All were really interesting conversations, and I hope the audience appreciated them as well.

I spent the rest of the day following some of the sessions at the F.ounders conference, went to a superb reception at the President’s Residence in Dublin’s Phoenix Park (and met with the President, Mary McAleese, who is to leave office next week). Also enjoyed a nice dinner and a surprise Riverdance performance at the Guinness Storehouse.

Then things went awry.

As I made my way up to the top of the Guinness Storehouse building, where the awesome Gravity Bar can be found, I felt a sudden urge to get back to the hotel. I took a cab 10 minutes later and was in my hotel bed by midnight. 

I’ll spare you the details, but I spent the next 29 hours in that same hotel bed, occassionally making my way to the bathroom. My eye infection got worse and I got a rush of fever, basically knocking me out completely.

Needless to say, I missed the whole rest of the F.ounders event, and getting on a 6AM flight on Sunday morning felt like a trip to one of the upper circles of hell. I was also completey phased out, so forgot to bring my conference swag (a personalized bottle of Jameson, a personalized carrying bag made with the sails of a championship-winning yacht, some typical Irish food, some cool poster, the lot). Fuck, fuck, fuck.

It didn’t get much better when I got home. I had to rush to the doctor, who gave me a weird diagnosis (stomach flu) and told me to stay in bed for a few days. I laughed, because I never actually do what the doctor prescribes, but here we are, almost a week in and barely fit enough to write this one post. Feeling like I can pass out any time.

Don’t feel too sorry for me, though. I’m privileged enough to even get to attend conferences like F.ounders (and meet Bono!) and I definitely had some great conversations with friends there. Too bad it ended the way it did, of course, and a clear sign for me to slow down a little and cut down on traveling for a while.

My wife and newborn son will be thankful. As will my body.