I am here in Davos as a participant of the World Economic forum where the formal sessions have just concluded and all I can say is Wow! We were selected late last year as a Technology Pioneer and to actually come here has been the most surreal experience of my life. I have been able to shake hands with some of my heroes and some of the people I don’t really like, but who are powerful enough that I went out of my way. I passed kings, presidents, prime ministers, senators, ayatollahs and gurus. I even had dinner with some of them. It was amazing to just sit in front of Tony Blair talking about a vision of a more effective global organization and realize that this is not a television in front of me.
I was thinking about the best highlights for me and it was really hard because there are thousands. From a business perspective, I was pleasantly surprised how valuable it was networking with the top of the high tech industry, but that still felt a bit like a Silicon Valley event. Some of the best sessions for me were the dinners where you can sit down with the most brilliant people in the world and talk about the most extraordinary things, and the workshops where you brainstorm with some of the most brilliant people in the world.
I took the train from Zurich to Davos with Geoffrey Moore. Geoff was on Documentum’s board, so I know him well, but it is still great to spend so much time with such a busy man and influential thinker. We discussed some of the trends away from computing and more toward collaboration and communication. He also gave me lots of hints on how to get the most out of Davos. This is Geoff’s sixth year at Davos and he hosted some of the best sessions.
Yesterday, I attended a session on innovation that was moderated by a correspondent for CNBC and observed by Tim Brown, the CEO of Ideo, and a professor from a Swiss Institute. I was in a group that included C. K. Prahalad, one of the greatest thinkers on the subject. Each group was tasked with the creation of a new product using different innovation models. We created a new game and film company that would take advantage of new gaming technologies with a sort of market-based collaboration between designers and customers. We were up against stiff and I was the one who presented our results. Bernard Liautaud, Chairman of Business Objects, did a fantastic job of presenting a carbon-trading fashion company using a terrorist cell market model and I believe that got the most votes. Our product didn’t do very well, but it was an honor to be able to work with CK.
The last session before Blair’s speech was a lunch session with some of the leading forward thinkers and CEOs of the future about what that future might look like in 2015. I sat next to John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, who was overly enthusiastic about a future where no needs to leave their room as holograms deliver your companions and even your outdoors right in front of you. In the second session, I sat next to Shai Agassi of SAP, where he laid out a vision of a physical world analog to the internet that helps deliver physical goods and items to you the way the internet delivers packets of data. Arianna Huffington laid out a world where everyone was not having sex, because they were experiencing virtual sex. I’m looking forward to seeing the summarizations of the session that covered new emerging life styles, increased globalization, more power in emerging markets and opportunities to tackle global warming, ubiquitous access to the internet for all, and securely handle user’s identities.
On Thursday night, I was in a wine dinner hosted by Jancis Robinson, the UK’s leading wine critic. Geoff gave me a bit of a ribbing because I dumped his dinner session on Mergers and Acquisitions Heatmap, because Geoff would have rather been tasting the Bordeaux wines. The bottles, which ranged in price from $200 to $800 each, were paid for by a Mister Ahkmatov, an industrialist from Ukraine, who was himself hosting the Prime Minister of Ukraine. It was a very generous gesture with the most incredible wines and terrific commentary from Jancis. We were kicked out at 10 and retired to the bar with the remaining bottles of wine hanging out with one of the world’s greatest wine experts.
I don’t know how to describe last night without reusing all the same superlatives. It started off with a political dinner where I met with John Kerry and sat at the same table as Senator Patrick Leahy and the Undersecretary of Treasury for International Affairs. Senator Leahy had interesting off the record commentary. I even got to ask Barney Frank over at the next table some questions about Sarbanes Oxley. Then I went to the Accel party where I got to meet Shimon Perez and ask him his opinion on the future of Iraq. I met one of my heros, Michael Porter, afterwards, which was a real treat. We then headed over to the Google party, which was wall to wall mayhem with every known famous person around. I met Sergey Brin and Larry Page but got to spend more time with Larry in a session on city design this morning. The guy is a renaissance man having figured out new models for flight transportation and influencing the design of Google's new $1B facility.
This evening I am heading out to the Geek Dinner, which originated back when the techies weren’t allowed at the Grand Gala. I have been told the Geek Dinner is much better. I understand that everyone will give a prediction as to what will be coming up in the next year.
I’ll write some more about the week later, but for now I have run out of adjectives to use. I would like thank Mitchell Baker, CEO of the Mozilla Foundation, for yield her spot to me for the Tech Pioneer competition, Dave Sifry, CEO of Technorati and who deservedly beat me in that competition, for yielding his seat at dinner and Mitch Kapor for his help in the conference.