How to Grow an Influential Community, with Paddy Cosgrave

paddy cosgrave event

In this video interview, I’m joined by Irish entrepreneur Paddy Cosgrave,

In just 18 months Paddy has created two truly global events that the most influecial names in tech want to speak at and attend: F.ounders and the Web Summit series. Speakers at these events include: the founders of Bebo, Twitter, Skype and Bono to name just a few.  This month Paddy was named no. 26 in the Wired 100 list of top European Influencers

In this interview you will learn how Paddy did this. And:

- How Paddy launched 2 of the most important conferences from nothing, in 18 months
– How he reached out to people who were WAY more important to him (when he was unknown) and got them to commit to speaking at his events
– The most impressive thing he’s learnt from all these founders he’s managed to meet
– How he builds insane buzz for his events
– How he get inspiration from the music industry to create buzz by strategically announcing speakers 
– What the number 1 page people view just before making a purchase is
– What is the 1 most important ingredient of making a great event is

Paddy’s Links:

F.ounders and the Web Summit

Your Turn: What did you learn from this Interview? Share it in the comments below


How to Grow an Influential Community, with Paddy Cosgravew

Howard: Hi everyone, Howard from here. I have an awesome guest, a bit of a legend back in Ireland, Paddy Cosgrave with me. He is number 26 in Wired’s top 100 most influential people this year and he’s a founder of a very [very] influential group in America and a blog called founders which has people from the head of Skype, Twitter and Bono go to those events and today I’m going to talk to him about how to build an influential community and also the science of how he builds the buzz around these event that he runs. Paddy, good to see you here in London!

Paddy: Nice to see you too, Howard.

Howard: So, first of all, a guy from Dublin, right? How do you build one of probably the most influential communities in the world over in America that has some of the most influential business people wanting to attend? How do you do it?

Paddy: I think [most] of it is huge amount of luck like 18 months ago I really hadn’t ran anything. In terms of founders I’ve never really been at founders before and it was October 2010 just 18 to 19 months ago that was the very first founders. It just started as an idea that I guess resonated with a lot of people which at that time [was] there are fantastic events that bring together founders and entrepreneurs from incredible companies from all over the world but those events are almost all regionally focused.

So there’ll be great events in the states that bring together brilliant people but they are all most overwhelming being Americans then some big events in Europe and they bring together some great people and it’ll be overwhelming American or Europeans and the same of the case in India or China _____ massively global and founders was that and it’s noble for lots of different reasons has become what it’s become. You know its 2 parts. The first part is inviting the right people. You know it’s always very hard persuading the first person to commit and then once somebody is committed then it’s easier to get the next two and it just keeps on.

Howard: So, how do you get the first person to commit?

Paddy: I think the back story to this is kinda curious and it’s kinda revealing and it takes an enormously long time probably four or five weeks on one person to persuade one person to tentatively say okay.

Howard: Can you tell me who that is?

Paddy: That was Niklas Zennstorm, Founder of Skype. He really was the first person. It was an incredible thing for me to do because there were no events before. In fact we have no name. It never really happened before. But I think a lot of entrepreneurs understand that you know they started out from nothing and advance at some point have probably started out at something. And so it started from there. He was an unbelievable person to get and then I kinda went from there.

Howard: So how did you reach out to him about it?

Paddy: I just emailed.

Howard: Literally?

Paddy: Yeah! You know I think most people believe that that person must get so many emails. About the one thing I’m asking him to do which is to come and speak. And in reality sometimes they don’t and this guy sometimes loved the idea of speaking to High School or even Primary School if some teachers ask them they feel. You know in many cases these entrepreneurs in three years, in four years in five years in two years you know one year ago were broke they’re living out in a tiny box apartment you know their living out of suitcase and they really they don’t have any airs and braces about themselves. And they’re very giving, giving in terms of giving back to the community.

So sometimes I think you know wherever you are in the world whether you are in a tiny island in the Northwest of Scotland, Northeast of Scotland or in Dublin, or somewhere in the United States or in Brazil you should reach out to these guys and all of them are accessible cause the majority of them are on Twitter, Facebook or their emails or usually publicly available. You just need to don’t write a big email. Just keep it very short and sweet. Three sentences of what specifically are you asking of. And if they want to find out more somebody will get in touch with you and that’s the starting point for the conversation. You gotta start the conversation pick their interest and you also gotta accept you know I guess most of them probably won’t be able to do it.

There are hundreds of amazing tech entrepreneurs out there you know spread your net wide and so.

Howard: And once you get one you try to get social proof to I suppose.

Paddy: Yeah, I guess so. I think the Dublin Web Summit kinda started in 2010.

Howard: Yeah that was the very first one.

Paddy: And yeah Matt Mullenweg and Craig Newmark in February 2010 they had a really good time.

Howard: Did you do that first one as well for founders you had a bit more confidence cause you already get to reach out to these guys from Matt for example how [come] did that come about did you hear his coming anyway or…

Paddy: Yes, there was like a kinda amazing background story with Matt. My little sister, she was 19 at that time, she got elected to a student society at their university and she came to me in summer 2009. She’ll go “The internet’s so big now…” and I say, “Well done sis. All that education is paying off.” And she was, “Yeah! You know, every year we invite all these politician and these academics speak at the students who are members of the society but we want to invite some people who have done amazing things in the internet online but we don’t know who those people might be. Could you like recommend a few people and then we’ll select who we feel are the best people?” So I recommend Matt Mullenweg cause everything he has done with WordPress are absolutely incredible and from there my little sister kinda got back to me a few months later this student council said we voted for Matt to be invited so I reached out to Matt and said, “Hey would you come and speak to the student in this university and then what’s your ___ would you like to speak to tech community as well?” That’s kinda first genesis, I have really no idea what I was doing. I know nothing about audio, knew nothing about nothing. So that’s how all of these kinda started.

Howard: And you had a successful episode in a past company. Do you think you needed to have that to kinda get the respect to run these events you think?

Paddy: Well, I don’t really think so. I don’t really think that respectable or _____ but maybe there are some kudos for actually trying. And you know. The amazing thing, take founders for example, you bring those 150 tech guys that built Bebo, Twitter, YouTube, Skype. Michael Birch is a wonderful example in that… he is not a wonderful example all of those 150 are a wonderful example because what they have more in common things about each other is not because they have succeed once or twice it’s that they’ve failed multiple times and because they’ve tried and most entrepreneurs have failed more than they have succeeded and I think it’s just the trying it’s the process of actually trying to build something that maybe gives a little bit of kudos to most some people.

Howard: Paddy, your friends with some of the top guys in the world now. Do you ask them for advice on things regularly?

Paddy: Sure, yes like last 18months like craziest start like a startup NBA, steroids or something, you can ask everybody about like: How do you compute the viral factor? What’s the best way to measure to see if an app is growing or not? And talk about design or UX. It’s just like yeah it’s been really [really] fascinating. And I think entrepreneurs are more fascinated they don’t do things really to make things they like to build things and create stuff they are fascinated by ideas. It’s the ideas that drive them.

You put two or four entrepreneurs and they’ll just talk for hours until their COO calls and say, “Where the hell are you? You’re supposed to be in the office. We got a meeting. Show up.” Maybe I’m being idealistic but I think that’s my feeling.

Howard: Nice and one thing I want to cover. Always with your events probably more than I’ve ever seen in any type of event before you have a certain way that just builds great buzz about the event. For your events you build buzz that’s I suppose looks like you have a certain process there and it’s intentional where you like create scarcity, people have to add some waiting list and you know some more tickets.

Paddy: I think the biggest thing is that if you’re ever going to email people or contact them or broadcast something about your event you should have something new so announcing all your speakers at the very start is probably not the best idea. If you look at a classroom or few other events they kind of they don’t necessarily start at the biggest act they start at a really good act and then there’s a number of months past and the announcer one hell of a headline and then they add some more acts some more acts and keeps snowballing up to the kind of the actual event itself. I think that’s really important.

Howard: Where did you get the inspiration from music festivals?

Paddy: Yeah, definitely.

Howard: Oh did you really okay.

Paddy: Because music festivals [they don’t] they hold and they hold that’s a music festival they say these are the pieces of dates these are the guys that we played over the last few years.

Howard: And did you know someone in the music industry that told you how to do that or did you just observe?

Paddy: One or two guys working with me now worked for MDC and Mean Fiddler which are the biggest concert promoters in UK and Ireland some of my good friends, one of my good friend just kinda ran Jay-Z and Kanye West concert in Ireland and you just observe.

[That’s] it kinda works and it’s kind of exciting you know if you kinda have 90 speakers it’s almost kind of meaningless. How are you going to get through that so you kinda announce key speakers at different mobiles so you can add some interesting engineers and you add some interesting designers. Things that resonate with parts of the community helps build momentum.

Howard: Awesome [awesome]!

Paddy: Oh! But the interesting thing is that most people if you look at the data so you go in Google and [you say] you look at the page most people visit before buying the ticket and it’s not the speakers. Speakers are amazing but people go because other people are going because people want network so they fly to Dublin, fly to London to void seven other flight and it’s a huge amount of scheduling and so they can do separate back to back meetings.

So they look at the attendee list they scan the attendee list and go, “Wow! There’s a lot of good people going. I don’t want to miss it. Something could happen maybe nothing might happen but at least while I’m there I won’t be missing anything. Any opportunity that might come my way meet investors that come my way or meet some journalist that might really help my startup. At least I’m there. Worst case scenario, I don’t miss anything, best case scenario I meet group of people that can change the _____ of my company.”

Howard: Yeah! And you’re completely right I remember being here at events and looking over who else is going and do you use some kind of _____ or something or do you to do that?

Paddy: Well yeah we just use a _____ we post stuff out there and…

Howard: Oh really? So you like to list down the names of people and publish it?

Paddy: Yeah.

Howard: Cool! Very cool! Cool! Well Paddy the pizzas are here so we’re gonna shoot up. And we have a big event that is about to kick off in about half an hour just before anyone else just before someone I leave someone maybe thinking of starting a community or running big event what’s the kinda one big kinda learning you have in the…

Paddy: Like a lot of conferences over the last two years I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is conferences is about the people that attend speakers are very important, sponsors are very important and the person organizing is important. But it shouldn’t be about the person organizing it, it shouldn’t be about the sponsors it shouldn’t be about the speakers it should be about the experience that the attendees have and that’s the most important thing and if the attendees aren’t having a good time you know it’s like hospitals is everything you know it’s all about the patient schools are all about the pupils it’s not about the teachers and conferences are just exactly the same, events are the same communities are the same it’s all about the people. You gotta care for the people. Make sure everybody’s having a good time and that’s it.

Howard: Cool! Awesome! Paddy, before we go where can we find you in the web?


Howard: It’s Awesome! Thanks, Paddy.

Paddy: Thank you very much!

Howard: See you all!


How I went from $0 to $7,620 per month (my Lifestyle Design experiment)

digital nomad
digital nomad

Life’s a Beach








Just over a year ago (before I started this blog) – I went on a mission to be a digital nomad, to work for myself in a ‘location independent’ fashion. In this post I’ll tell you how I went from earning $0 to $7,620 a month while doing most of my work on the beach.

But first, let me set the scene……..

Ever since I read the Four Hour Work Week – and had my mind opened to the possibilities of ‘Lifestyle Design’ and being a digital nomad, I knew it was something that I wanted to give a try.

I was bored in what I was doing (a funded PhD), so about 18 months ago I quit and later that day I boarded a plane to Australia, via Asia – > determined to give this ‘New Rich’ lifestyle a go.

I had very little relent experience. But I had built a website from scratch during my ‘failed’ startup that I launched in college – so I knew I could learn this shit.

So I spent the first few weeks in Malaysia consuming every recommended book I could get while lying on a beach. I read everything from Lifestyle design texts to books about psychology, marketing and vagabonding. I was hungry to learn.

By the time I hit Sydney about 2 weeks later I was pumped and ready to take action. I flirted with affiliate marketing initially, and while it was cool to learn the principles through the course I took – I didn’t get a sniff of a sale and didn’t really enjoy it. Too mechanical & soulless for my liking.

Then one day, while googling a local business in Sydney I stumbled upon something that would take me on a different path. I noticed that the local business didn’t have a website. A bit more research showed that almost every small business around where I lived didn’t have a website. None! Very different that back home in Ireland where every business has had a website for years!

I smelled an opportunity

So I hit the streets and started walking into businesses to offering doing them websites – the first business I signed up? The Topless Bar that was across the road from our hostel. Rock on!

A New City

Soon after we had to move to Adelaide, a smaller city in Australia (part of our travel schedule). It was bad timing cause I just felt I’d started some momentum.

After I got settled I hit the streets in this new city and went door to door to businesses…. asking people if they wanted a website

Except nothing happened. Even if they did not have a website – they were not interested! I even remember being laughed at one day as they said ‘sure, why do we need a website – we’re on Google’ (?)

My early success with the Topless bar in Sydney wasn’t being replicated – had I just got lucky?

Despite the fact I was getting shot down time and time again – I kept at it. Walking into businesses unannounced asking for business. I HATE rejection, so it was difficult to do time and time again. But before every business I would call into I would read a quote from Zig Ziglar that says something along the lines of:

Every rejection, every failure brings me one step to mastery

So I kept at it. For weeks and weeks. Kept on being rejected, learning and keeping at it. All the while, my savings were running dangerously low as I was not earning anything!

And then one week it started to come together

First: I was getting some business cards printed at a printers, the conversation went onto websites and she said she’d like wanted a website done (note: I did not directly ask her for business). = Deal worth $870

Second: She introduced me to a print client of her’s who also wanted a website. = Deal worth $3,700

Third: A Friend from back home who knew what I was doing, contacted me to request a website Deal worth: $2,500

Fourth: The cheque from the Topless bar arrived in the post = Worth $550

In total I had just made $7,620!!

These events may sound random, even lucky – but looking back there’s some important lessons we can all learn from them:

1) Success comes from taking action. If I had not started my failed startup in college – and then tinkered with Affiliate marketing in Sydney, I would not have learned how to build a website and would not have noticed, or taken advantage of the opportunity

Lesson: Just take action – good things that you can never foresee will come from it

2)  Despite all the cold call walk-ins I did trying to sell websites. Every big sale came from people who I either
knew (friend), was intro’d to (friend of Printer), approached indirectly (printer) or had something in common with (living across from Topless bar). Not one completely cold call turned into a sale.

Lesson 1: People don’t like to be directly sold to – a good salesman will approach it indirectly, establish what the customer wants and ten introduce his solution

Lesson 2: Personal connections is the most important asset you can have

3) I burnt a lot of rubber (cycle tyre rubber) to get those deals. I get rejected and it hurt. But I kept going – I would never hav achieved anything if I stopped

Lesson: Keep believing, keep going. Every rejection, every failure brings you one step to mastery

4) Tell everyone you know what y0u’re offering – you never know who in your network might need your service. Then do a good job

Lesson: Work your network to get your first customer - This might sound frustrating as you might want to ‘go big’; quicker than that (I know I did), but remember, even the biggest companies: Ebay, Amazon – even McDonalds – started with 1 customer and grew

5)  Lifestyle design is hard. Selling marketing/websites to local businesses is hard. There are lots of websites out there telling you that this stuff is easy, that you can sit on a beach, take it easy and let the cash roll in. I also see lots of sites that say selling internet marketing and websites to local businesses is a gold mine. 

These are usually sites that are trying to sell you something.

I’ve tried to be as honest in this post as possible without glorifying what I went through. It was hard work and difficult. But I look back on it as an amazing learning experience – and that feeling of success when it all came together, was  amazing.

Lesson: This is all possible – just be prepared that it’s going to be hard work

Your Turn: Have you ever tried anything like this? Or would like to? Want to ask me any questions about how I did it? Write them in the comments below:

What Great Goals Are you Working Towards (and what’s holding you back?)

great Goals
great Goals

Dream Wheel. Image by: 笨笨的小B








What Great Goals Are you Working Towards (and what’s holding you back?)

In this post I’d like to ask you an important question:

What great goals are you working towards (and what’s holding you back?)

So technically there might be two questions in there – sue me

Having great goals you’re working towards is one of the most powerful motivators to achieve great things – it’s also one of the main reasons I started this blog. I’d love to help you achieve yours.

Later in this post I’ll ask you to share what your goals are, and what you think is holding you back, but first let me tell you 4 reasons why these two questions are so important:

4 Reasons why sharing your goals and roadblocks are so important:

1) The very act of deciding what your goals and admitting your roadblocks are, in themselves the first steps towards achieving them. It makes forces you to clarify your thoughts and focus on what you want to achieve most

2) Admitting these goals and roadblocks in public gives us you a sense of accountability. It turns a pie in the sky idea into an inspirational dream worth pursuing.

This is the very reason why I share my life goals and crazy targets I’m working towards so publically – it forces me to focus and makes we want to achieve them even more.

It’s really empowering and it only works – I highly recommend you try it

3) Sharing your goals and roadblocks may inspire someone else reading this – to do something amazing.

No matter what stage you’re at, or what trouble you’re facing – rest assured someone else out there is experiencing something similar to you. Your goals and roadblocks can help give them the inspiration they need.

4) Sharing these will help me, and others reading this, help you achieve your goals – so I can offer advice and share my experience to better help you reach your goals. I’d love to help.

We’re all here to do awesome things like startup a business, change the world or journey into space. By helping each other we can all get there faster

So let’s hear it.

If you have a minute right now, I’d love to know what you’re working toward at the moment.

What are you trying to change about your life? What’s your biggest and most pressing goal? Are you Starting a business – or something else completely? What’s keeping you from achieving that? What are you frustrated by? What makes you want to give it all in sometimes?

 Please Share Yours in the comments below

8 Books that Influenced the Influencers

inspirational books
inspirational books

Happy :) Photo by: meddygarnet









What book has had the biggest impact on your life? What book, while you were reading it, made you think: ‘Wow – I’ve never thought of things like that before’?

Well, you’re not alone. Time and time again – successful people say that ‘reading inspirational books’ was one of the most important factors to their success – but which inspirational books exactly?

For this post, I reached out to some of the most successful business people/bloggers and authors out there and  asked each one what book had the biggest impact on their lives.

In this post I’ll share 6 of these with you and at the bottom of this post I’ll ask you to share what book has had the biggest impact on your life!

seth godin book










1 Seth Godin

Book(s) that have inspired you more than any other?
(1) The Republic of Tea and
(2) Zig Ziglar’s How to Stay Motivated audio series

Adam Penenberg book








 2 Adam L Penenberg (author of Viral Loop)

Book(s) that have inspired you more than any other?

(1) The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Adam says ‘Should be required reading’

chris guilleabeau







 3 Chris Guilleabeau (The Art of Non-Conformity Blog, & Author)

Book(s) that have inspired you more than any other?
How about two? I pick:
(1) Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl,
(2) A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami.

chris brogan book









 4 Chris Brogan (Author, Social Media guru on high)

Book(s) that have inspired you more than any other?
(1) The 7 Habits of highly Effective People – Steven Covey

Laura Roeder book










 5 Laura Roeder ( & the Dash)

Book(s) that have inspired you more than any other?
(1) Double Double is my business bible, in fact our entire team is currently going through it chapter-by-chapter to put Cameron’s guidance in place.

james altucher










6 James Altucher (Trader, Investor, Author, Entrepreneur)

Book(s) that have inspired you more than any other?
(1) The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley (on the non-fiction side).
(2) All of Bukowski’s books (for blog-like strong autobiographical literary voice).

Want to see more? A longer list of ‘most influencial books’ read by people is listed in the hidden chapter I give away in The Startup Handbook – download it for free now

Your Turn: What book has inspired you more than any other? Put your answer in the comments below

The Startup Handbook – My Free Ebook, Available NOW!

The Startup Handbook

The Startup Handbook, by Howard Kingston

I’m happy to announce that my eBook guide, The Startup Handbook, is finished! It contains over $4,500 worth of free stuff: tools, tips and resources for first time entrepreneurs from companies such as: Google, Unbounce, 99 Designs, Bing, Optimizely, Appsumo – and so many more

And yes, this eBook is totally free.The Startup Handbook

I spent 5 weeks researching the book and reaching out to the best companies out there to compile a Startup Handbook with the best resources out there, just for you.


As a first time entrepreneur you probably have tons of questions (I did – and still do). And every time you do a Google search for an answer you are bombarded with too much information and untrustworthy products which leave you feel overwhelmed and under satisfied. Due to this, I have created this Startup Handbook of the very best resources that should help you out as you get started.

Yes, it does require you to sign up for my free weekly newsletter, but it’s packed full of entrepreneurship, marketing and motivational tips that you can’t find anywhere on this blog. You can unsubscribe at anytime, but if you’re at all familiar with this blog and who I am, I don’t really promote anything, and I don’t pretend I’m a ‘guru’, I’m rolling the snowball towards success – just like you. I’m just here to provide good content, and that’s it.

To get a FREE copy of The Startup Handbook, simply enter your details below and it will be emailed to you instantly



The Startup Handbook

201 Essential Tools, Tips & Free Stuff for First Time EntrepreneursThe Entrepreneur handbook

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p.s. If you’re interested in setting up a blog, just like this one I recommend you Read my Zero to Blogging Guide and Check out this awesome interview where a blogging expert explains what your blog should be about