Why should a startup company like Vault Security Systems AG attend WEF? If you read the general information, you will probably conclude, like we did, that there is no way we can spend that amount of cash on what amounts to a conference:
Membership and partnership fees range from CHF60,000 to CHF600,000 depending on the level of engagement. Most types of membership include the opportunity to participate in the Annual Meeting for the CEO of the company, although Davos participation incurs a fee over and above membership or partnership fees. (see Forum site)
What it costs to attend WEF
The Swiss government also points out in some detail how much the WEF Davos costs. Incidentally, getting a ticket may cost more than CHF27,000 after you have paid your partnership fees. But there is even a badge hierarchy in Davos.
- White Badge – gets you everywhere and costs a minimum of CHF27,000, plus the membership and partnership fees your company pays… if you are a young global leader or academic you have a chance to get in for free, but do not hold your breath.
Of course, Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Prince William of the United Kingdom get in for free.
But we’re not bitter about that or anything. Honest.
- Dark Blue – means you are a permanent WEF employee,
- Light Blue – means you are a temporary WEF employee,
- Orange – means you are a media person,
- Violet – technical expert,
- Red – you are a driver,
- Green – you are part of a government delegation,
- Brown – the hotel badge (you are a guest at a hotel, and have paid CHF100 to WEF for a security check, in addition to paying the hotel for your room, of course).
This year part of our team scored an invite and had a chance to visit the World Economic Forum. Of course, there was no way it was a White Badge. After all, that would have cost us more than a start-up like could ever afford, and there’s no way we could expect our investors to cough up that kind of cash. Still, we got to a few events, and it was certainly worth the trouble and time it took.
By the way, as in past years, climate change was an issue at this year’s WEF – naturally. Although we did not attend any of those sessions, we did our part by having the team use public transit, including taking the train to and from Davos. In Davos itself, we took the WEF shuttle or walked from one venue to the next.
Was it worth it?
We were so excited to be there and have a chat with so many inspiring minds, but only time will tell whether the return on investment is enough. For instance, we were only able to attend one day, but simply didn’t have more time to hang around. Plus, it’s a bit early to come to any definitive conclusions. Nevertheless, it was pretty cool.
For starters, this must be the only place where I can meet Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and exchange a few words with him on the way to the restroom, right after he visited with Jair Bolsenaro, Brazil’s president (he also met the Swiss president). In fact, the Swiss government calculated that its president and ministers saved at least 60 days in travel and thousands of air miles thanks to attending Davos. What the Swiss government does not tell you is that at Davos you can informally meet some people, that you might have a hard time meeting through official channels.We know the drill, the agenda is full, the timing is off, etc. In Davos, you ight just bump into someone.
Our bar-side chat with JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon was interesting. His advice to us was to take it easy and spend most of our time hanging out with people outside the convention center. Even for him, non-official events are a chance to meet people he might otherwise not come across so easily – like us, for instance 🙂
I had another great encounter with Alison Tarditi, Chief Investment Officer of Australia’s Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation. She needed a chair to sit down in order to change from her winter boots to high heels, and I offered mine at the restaurant. That started a good six-minute (at least) conversation, during which she shared something interesting:
Living Down Under makes the WEF a great place to meet fellow investment officers and pension experts from around the globe.
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Director General Francis Gurry made a smilar comment. He feels the event gives him a chance to meet national patent experts, and legal minds, but also the opportunity to hear from business people and regulators about their concerns regarding property rights, and of course, patents.
What about blockchain?
Of course, hanging out with the famous crowd (see above) is one thing, but the reason we went is to learn more about blockchain developments. We wanted to meet our friends, foes, and some competitors as well as possible investors. Most cybersecurity related get togethers at Davos happened at unofficial events, which have sprouted up everywhere. There is even an app, called Davos X, to help you navigate the unofficial schedule. For instance, the Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC) hosts a five-day side event. Such events include on-stage interviews, panels, coffee breaks for networking, and so forth. We did not attend GBBC events during our one-day visit to WEF Davos 2019. So many events, so little time…
Naturally, since one main focus of this year’s event was cybersecurity, there were plenty of unofficial events to attend. We even ended up at an event where we met Damir Yandrich, chairman of LedgerState. Funny story: our CEO Arman Sarhaddar was starving when he go to this event, and had a cup of soup (he said it was great). At which point Damir approached us, and informed Arman he was getting a bit of a head start on eating. It turns out that Damir was the initiator and one of the sponsors of this event, and we had some GREAT conversations. He introduced us to plenty of other interesting folks and he was a great host, of course. Thank you Damir!
Shortly after getting myself introduced to some folks I came to be speaking with Jessica Walker from bloxlive.tv. She was trying to set up another interview and also talking to Cecily Mak, a venture partner at ConsenSys blockchain studio. Jessica has plenty of social skills and appears to be a great networker. In no time at all, she had convinced myself and our CEO to agree to being interviewed by her. Proof of this is the cover picture.
It was kind of a Q&A session, including such topics as:
- Q: What is ivault’s business focus?
A: Helping companies manage their supply chain better.
- Q: Which part of my business will benefit first from blockchain technology?
A: By fighting counterfeit products, your supply chain benefits first.
- Q: Where does ivault make a difference?
A: Accelerating transactions and the supply chain by combining database management, encryption and distributed computing.
- Plus, a few other things…
After one of the panels finished, I had about three minutes to talk to Linda Pawczuk, principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP (time is usually short and you have to try hard to make a good impression 🙂 ). Linda is the leader of the Deloitte US Financial Services Industry Blockchain group. Among other things, she is responsible for Deloitte’s worldwide annual survey about blockchain firms and developments. She gave a really great statement about the state of the industry in her two-minute introduction during the panel she participated on.
Another nice and very human encounter I had was with Charlie Smith (Business Development, reserve.org). He was worried about having to be on stage and his hair not looking perfect, but he did a nice job of entertaining the audience – as much as one can when talking about a technical subject that includes cybersecurity, and cryptocurrency in particular.
It was a pleasure to meet EST CAPITAL AG’s Sindhu Bhaskar, as well. He invited us to the launch event of his new bank on Friday afternoon. Since we could not attend, we will have to meet with Sindhu the week after Davos to explore our ideas further. But our paths might not have crossed so quickly without the WEF.
Attending #WEF19 Davos: Was it worth it?
I can gladly give a preliminary YES. During the day it was a bit overwhelming and after 18:00 hours I started to feel sensory overload. I was getting afraid I could no longer remember all the people I had met once back at the office… you know, looking at a business card and drawing a blank?
One person who stuck in my mind was Tom Trowbridge from the Hedera Hashgraph platform. We talked to him in the hallway about the advantages and disadvantages of distributed computing. Most interesting, was hearing from Tom how his platform’s development work had focused on eliminating some weaknesses we experience with public blockchains (e.g., mining, energy consumption, etc.).
I also talked to Houmin Yan, the dean of the college of business at City University of Hong Kong, one of those academics that got a free pass to attend WEF. Talking to him informally was very interesting… but that is for another time. Needless to say, his supply chain insights were revealing to me…
If I am given the chance, I will most definitely go again, maybe Tuesday and Thursday next year… If you cannot stay there (most hotels are fully booked and even if you find one, they are very expensive), I would again use public transit to get to and from Davos.
What’s your opinion about the World Economic Forum? Have you ever attended a WEF event? How do you use such events to network and benefit your business? What tips could you give a start-up to get the most out of such an event? Tell us all about it, we’d love to hear your story! We will respond to your comment in no time.
Oh, and here is another picture with Arman Sarhaddar and Bibop G. Gresta, Co-Founder and current Chairman of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), after we met him a second time and had another cheerful chat at the bar.