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[Herald Interview] RISE co-host Paddy Cosgrave says in-app translation service may bring more CEOs onstage

Korean CEOs hesitant to speak, possibly because of language barrier

Conferences can get dull when language barriers cloud a visionary’s message.

Paddy Cosgrave, the co-host of Asia’s biggest tech conference, RISE, said in a closed-door interview with The Korea Herald on Wednesday that he hopes to bring more non-English speaking CEOs onstage at the global tech conferences he holds by using conference mobile apps to expand simultaneous translation services.

“The RISE app this year provides Mandarin translations for all the sessions,” Cosgrave said, adding that multiple language services would be available at the Web Summit in November. 

Paddy Cosgrave speaks at a press conference at RISE 2019, Tuesday. (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)
Paddy Cosgrave speaks at a press conference at RISE 2019, Tuesday. (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)

Apart from RISE, the tech conference in Hong Kong that marks its fifth year this year, Cosgrave is also behind the 10-year-old Web Summit in Lisbon and the 6-year-old Collision Conference in Toronto.

At the latest event, held Monday through Thursday, RISE counted an estimated 16,000 attendees. Collision and Web Summit in 2018 counted 25,000 and 70,000, respectively.

Given the volume of attendees at tech conferences, Cosgrave said, “Handing everyone translation headsets is a very antiquated way of doing it.”

But if translation services are embedded into a conference mobile app, participants only need to download the app to listen to every session along with the translation in real time.

This means the presenting CEOs can speak in their native tongues for maximum accuracy and effectiveness.

“Every time we visit Korea, we try to talk to major companies’ CEOs to have them speak at our conferences,” said Cosgrave, but so far he has only gotten three -- one each from Samsung, Market Kurly and Coupang.

David Eun, the president of Samsung NEXT and chief innovation officer at Samsung Electronics, spoke at Web Summit in 2018; Sophie Kim, the CEO at food delivery and logistics platform Market Kurly, spoke at RISE 2019; and Kartick Narayan, vice president of e-commerce platform Coupang, spoke at RISE 2018.

Cosgrave suspects that the reluctance from many Korean CEOs -- and executives from other countries whose native language is not English -- may not only have to do with their extremely packed schedules, but also with the language wall.

Mandarin services are already available on the RISE app. Next, Cosgrave expects to launch Japanese services in 2020 and Korean by 2021.

“And then everyone can go into the best talks and learn from them,” Cosgrave said.

RISE 2019 took place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center from Monday through Thursday.

Korean startups Posture360, Adriel, TOROOC, S.Lab and Roborus took part in the “Pitch” competition at the conference but their ideas weren’t chosen by the panel. Winning startups earned a chance to raise their profile in the eyes of investors and also got tickets to the bigger tech event, Web Summit, in Lisbon in November.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (