Why We Attended
You’ve probably heard of the World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, Switzerland. The heads and members of more than 100 governments, top executives of the 1,000 foremost global companies, leaders of international organizations, NGO’s and the most prominent cultural, societal and technological thought leaders and disruptors come together at the beginning of each year to define priorities and shape global, industry and regional agendas.
Notably content this year included the Dutch historian who berated billionaires for tax avoidance; the launch of C4IR Japan to help ensure that global smart city efforts are built upon a common set of human-centered principles and shared policy frameworks; and supply chain pilots that bring together digital identity and digital payments.
There are really no other conferences that offer unprecedented access to such an array of people and the opportunity to be able to rub elbows with world leaders, innovators, and trendsetters. HYGH decided to attend WEF and we’d like to share some useful tips on why you should attend and how it can be of most benefit to your startups.
WEF was a natural fit for HYGH due to our Zug origins. Zug is not only a town bursting with blockchain entrepreneurs but the home of several of our advertisers, so our attendance was a unique opportunity to connect with potential investors and industry partners. Our advisors Evan Luthra and Matthias Mende were also in attendance for their own projects, as well as our Swiss-based Head of Legal, Daniel Biesuz, so that gave us a lot of introductions.
Our purpose was really to garner strategic investments. While we’re currently crowdfunding our platform through our pre-STO, we’re also seeking investments from VCs and cornerstone investors that can give us a real leg up in the industry. Davos was the perfect environment to do that, especially when there’s so much interest around the blockchain space and HYGH’s position as the first genuine STO in Germany.
Expect the Unexpected
While WEF Davos is probably the most prestigious conference of any in terms of attendees, it also has the most challenging infrastructure of any conference. During the week of WEF, the town of 11,000 people swells to 30,000. Davos is built on a slope. It’s -10 degrees celsius on average and the sidewalks are all iced over (the Swiss town forbids the use of salt). If walking sounds like a non-starter, good luck getting around with a car; half the roads are blocked-off and traffic is a given. The venues themselves are what you would expect in a quaint Alpine skiing town. What is lacks in grandeur and modernity it makes up for in hygge.
WEF has a unique spot on the annual calendar of world leaders. At other conferences, they would be hurried from one PR event to the next, never getting a meaningful interaction with 90% of the participants. At Davos there are so many barriers to entry, that once you’re in, things are much more relaxed and the space for meaningful connections opens up.
It also helps that there are no protestors. With plenty of checkpoints to get into the town, and different levels of access passes to get into different spaces, I saw only two protestors my whole time there. One was dressed as a tree, his compatriot dressed as Jair Bolsonaro holding a chainsaw, the two of them standing against a snowy backdrop on the outskirts of Davos. It felt eerily like climate change.
No protestors and the barriers to entry are why WEF comes back to Davos year after year. It’s a huge economic bump for the town, and they’re more than happy to let WEF take it over in return.
At dusk, it gets so cold that everyone just wants to go inside. Rubbing elbows isn’t a metaphor here. Invariably, you’ll bump into amazing people. At the coat check in Hotel Belvedere, the nexus of events, I met John Kerry, very unassuming with just a single aide. I found Nico Rosberg at a bar, Steve Forbes by the door greeting people to his event.
The Hype of Bitcoin is Over and We’re Now Down to Business
At last year’s event, the two main themes were Emmanuel Macron and Bitcoin and it’s notable that both have fallen rather dramatically from grace. Macron stayed home to deal with the gilets jaunes, and no world leader really stepped up to emulate his stage presence. Yet blockchain is still on the agenda. We went to Blockchain Economic Forum which has grown into its own event at WEF due to the industry’s growing representation. We also attended the Blockchain Park Conference and are pleased to note that we won an award for the Best STO of Davos 2019.
The zeitgeist of this year’s event was multilaterialism . Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF explained in her speech how the world economy is like cross-country skiing: it helps if everyone stays on the same track.
In defense of multilaterialism, Angela Merkel and Wang Qi Shan, Vice President of the PRC, both talked about how global institutions need to evolve technical solutions to keep pace with rapid global digitization. I’ve seen this first hand in the out-of-home advertising market, where HYGH is innovating systems that current regulations have not been designed for.
Thinking of Attending? Here’s What you Need to Know:
1. Do your homework on who you want to meet. Davos is not something you can wing, because every event that matters requires an invitation. I mean you can go to Davos and do nothing all day until the after parties open up. You have to get invites and secure them beforehand, or otherwise have your charm offensive dialed up to 11.
2. Be clear on what you have to offer. If you only have an idea but nothing to show or share with beneficial people, you’re probably better staying home working on your startup. While we were at WEF, HYGH was rated the highest STO on ICOBench, which gave us a unique position to market ourselves.
3. Don’t underestimate side events, everyone likes a chance to unwind and people are more likely to be open to a chat with a beverage in hand. Every big company has its own booth and own events. Even if a company is not directly related to your sector, it’s an opportunity to rub shoulders with someone who could be your next big investor.
4. Always come prepared with an elevator pitch and have your card in hand.
5. Always dress up, never dress down. I made the mistake of going to one event in my ski pants because I was skiing early in the morning and I ended up participating in a roundtable discussion with several potential investors.
6. As WEF is all about making connections, be prepared to follow up with the people you meet. Some of these will be a pro forma kind of email newsletter, others more personal. Offer to connect people with others that may be helpful or send them the link about something you had discussed socially. Building connections can have lasting effects and are crucial to growing a startup. Have your investment deck ready to go for the next week of follow ups.
7. Be sure to attend some panel discussions. This is an opportunity to get in-depth insights on topics that will affect the lives of billions from the industry leaders and politicians shaping the global agenda for 2019. Below is a panel discussion on sovereign cryptocurrencies.
8. Contact any news outlets you want to talk to before the conference. Forbes featured us in an article that week, which could have included an interview at WEF if we had set it up beforehand.
9. Bring boots and a big winter coat, just make sure both are on the nicer side.
10. WEF is the best time to go skiing in Davos. The slopes are empty because everyone is busy at the conference. Asking someone if they want to go skiing/snowboarding can be a great way to schedule a meeting.
–George Geicke, Head of Sales at HYGH
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