The chief executive of Web Summit, one of Europe’s biggest technology conferences, stepped down on Saturday after major sponsors and speakers withdrew from the event, set for next month, following backlash over his public criticism of Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks.
Paddy Cosgrave, the Irish entrepreneur who founded Web Summit in 2009, announced his resignation after companies including Google, Intel, Meta, Siemens and the payments giant Stripe — many of whom were set to have executives speak at the event — said they were no longer coming.
“Unfortunately, my personal comments have become a distraction from the event, and our team, our sponsors, our start-ups and the people who attend,” he said in a statement. “I sincerely apologize again for any hurt I have caused.”
A spokeswoman for Web Summit said that the organization aimed to appoint a new chief executive as soon as possible. The event, which is scheduled to take place in Lisbon starting Nov. 13, is still set to go forward.
Web Summit said on Friday that it expected about 70,000 people to attend, about the same as last year.
Mr. Cosgrave’s move came just over a week after he criticized Western leaders and governments for supporting Israel as it responded to the Hamas raids on Oct. 7. “War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are,” he wrote on X on Oct. 13.
His comments drew rebukes from prominent technology founders and investors, particularly those from Israel. Among those to drop out were Ravi Gupta, a partner at Sequoia Capital, and Garry Tan, the chief executive of the technology incubator Y Combinator.
Earlier this week, Mr. Cosgrave alternately struck both apologetic and defensive tones, condemning the Hamas attacks but also repeating his criticism of Israel’s military campaign. But by Tuesday, he published an apology on Web Summit’s site in which he said he defended “Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself.”