Web Summit Names Katherine Maher, Former Wikimedia CEO, As New Leader


Web Summit, one of the world’s leading technology conferences, has announced a new CEO following the recent controversy surrounding its co-founder and former CEO, Paddy Cosgrave. Katherine Maher, who previously served as the CEO and executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation from 2019 to 2021, has been chosen to lead the event.

Key Takeaway

Web Summit has appointed Katherine Maher, former Wikimedia CEO, as its new CEO following the controversy involving Paddy Cosgrave. Maher’s experience in tech advocacy and her focus on human and digital rights make her an ideal choice for leading the event. The announcement signifies a desire to move past the controversy and refocus on the core mission of Web Summit: delivering dialogue and connection in the technology industry.

Maher brings a wealth of experience and expertise to her new role. In addition to her time at Wikimedia, she currently serves as the chair of the board for Signal, the private messaging app, and holds various other board and fellowship positions, including with the Atlantic Council and the Truman National Security Project. Maher has also been actively involved in tech advocacy, particularly focusing on issues of human and digital rights.

The announcement of Maher’s appointment came through a brief video, where she made no direct reference to the controversy surrounding her predecessor. However, her words subtly acknowledged the challenges that Web Summit now faces in rebuilding relationships and regaining trust from participants.

A Focus on Technology and Global Innovation

In her video, Maher expressed her excitement about joining the Web Summit team and emphasized the importance of connecting and gathering innovators from around the world. She highlighted how Web Summit enables crucial conversations on how technology shapes our lives and the world we live in.

Web Summit is scheduled to take place in Lisbon next month, giving Maher a limited time to navigate the event through calmer waters. A number of major tech firms had previously announced their withdrawal from the conference in response to Cosgrave’s remarks and stance on the conflict in the Middle East. It remains to be seen whether Maher’s appointment will convince these companies and individuals to reconsider their participation.

Looking Ahead: Return to Dialogue and Connection

The choice of Maher as the new CEO clearly signals a desire to move past the controversy and create a more inclusive and cooperative environment. In a statement accompanying the announcement, Maher emphasized the importance of Web Summit as a platform for connection and conversation in the technology landscape.

“Our immediate task is returning the focus to what we do best: delivering dialogue among all those connected with technological advancement,” Maher stated, acknowledging the need to refocus on the core mission of the conference.

Alongside Maher’s appointment, Web Summit also announced the addition of Damian Kimmelman, a tech entrepreneur, as a non-executive board director. Meanwhile, Paddy Cosgrave, who had chaired the Web Summit board, stepped down from his position earlier this month.

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