The collaboration village in Davos 2023
Davos this year felt back to normal in terms of attendance and intensity. The Spring 2022 edition which was the first one post-COVID was smaller and with less of a vibe.
Imagine if the Metaverse tech and hype was there back in 2019. The Burning Man festival did manage to build a virtual world for its community to interact during the COVID era and according to Cortney Harding, this virtual village is proving to be a successful use case for `small communities`. The WEF is planning to launch the Global Collaboration Village in partnership with Microsoft, Accenture and apparently presented a prototype this year in Davos. The big bet is that such virtual villages can function all year round and can move the needle, especially for communities focused on the environment and topics that may be better done through digital twins of nature.
For those that have never been to Davos during the WEF, there are intense and diverse activities on the Promenade (the main street of the village where most stores ar transformed into country or company hubs) and in hotels.
The main themes this year were a mesh of Web3/Blockchain/Crypto and a mesh of SDGs/ ESG.
Country events and hubs included India, Malaysia, the Polish house, the Greek House, the Swedish house, the Finnish events, and Africa`s House.
The Metaverse made its appearance with several events from different providers. What struck me this year is that there was no major event with an AI focus. The last one I recall was in January 2020, on the 50th anniversary of the WEF, the TechPark Davos 2020 event very much focused on AI.
Artificial Intelligence is at a stage that it is no more seen by its stakeholders as a collaborative technology and a sector that needs to earn buy-in from the private or the public sectors. Unlike Web3/Blockchain/Crypto, SDGs/ ESG, Artificial Intelligence is by now competitive and AI providers see no value in co-creating AI hubs, AI tents, or AI lounges.
Juxtapose that with the rich events at the Global Blockchain Business Council, (GBBC) The Blockchain Hub, the Equality Lounge, the SDG tent, the Female Quotient Lounge, and more.
Hubs, Tents, and Lounges are where these collaborative technologies and the social and environmental issues are discussed and tackled.
A few diverse reflections from the Sessions I attended
Notice the presence or lack of collaboration in all of these
· Crypto made it in the Congress with 7 sessions versus 2 in the previous one (from the CEO of Ripple, Brad Garlinghouse at the Axios event)
· The Ripple CEO was cynical about the SEC, saying that not only the US has not provided any clarity in terms of crypto regulation, but the SECs actions have actually created confusion. In his view the globe is booming with crypto activity and crypto businesses should just forget about the US as there is so much to offer to the rest of the world.
· Anthony Scaramucci confessed his sense of betrayal from his personal relationship with SBF and family, on a panel at the Blockchain Hub moderated by Michael Casey. At the same time, he told the audience that US investors (like Skybridge and himself) are more comfortable with risk and even after the FTX fraud, US funds will continue to flow into the emerging space of Blockchain/Crypto/Web3.
· The main use cases of stablecoins are still onramps and offramps from fiat to crypto but there is more focus on serving the needs of merchants rather than retail or institutional traders. Circle is offering a larger variety of stablecoins, not only USD backed.
· The second use case of stablecoins is in facilitating the distribution of humanitarian aid. The CEO of the Stellar foundation, Denelle Dixon, spoke at 100women in Davos dinner about the collaborative efforts to get aid to refugees in Ukraine and elsewhere. The Stellar Development Foundation, Circle, MoneyGram International, and the Vibrant wallet application of Stellar Aid Assist have collaborated to launch this novel relief program powered by blockchain technology that enables organizations to distribute funds to recipients and monitor the disbursement of those funds on the Stellar blockchain.
I have to wonder why I am not hearing any such AI collaborative efforts.
· The third use case that is emerging shyly is using stablecoins in e-commerce to facilitate payments of suppliers. Elisabeth Carpenter, Circle COO (she has been with Circle for 7yrs that is a lifetime in Crypto) shared the example of Clothia, a curated online marketplace showcasing the best-emerging fashion designers in the accessible luxury category. Clothia curates the best, diverse, under-the-radar, amazingly talented designers. They are using Visa, Circle and Crypto.com to pay faster, and easier their designers using USDC. A real-world use case of stablecoin custodial wallets for global businesses.
· The most enlightening session I attended was at the Circle hub about the Future of Money. Niall Ferguson was one of the panelists and each one of his sentences were thought-provoking. He emphasized that is time to admit that the classic textbook definition of Money is not at all helpful in thinking of the transformation in financial services, in payments, and in storing value. He even suggested that it maybe a good idea to just allow for only 2 of the 3 classifications of money to be required at a time. Our Digital Future surely can’t remain captive to this notion of Money. (I will be writing more going forward as his session has impacted my thinking)
· The other enlightening session I attended was at the Seehof hotel following the kind invitation of Chainlink Labs and specifically Charlie Moore, Head of Carbon & Sustainability Solutions at Chainlink Labs. Digital Environmental Assets, like carbon credits, are one of the growing use cases using open-source MRV methodologies — Measurement, Reporting and Verification. There are other blockchain-powered projects beyond carbon credits focused on digital environmental assets (plastic circularity like Plastiks and Digital Commons for ethical commodities Watr)I also became aware ofThe Climate collective another collaborative effort of climate innovators (e.g. Celo blockchain, Open Earth, Kollektivo, Regen network etc.) with a mission to collaborate on Digital technologies that unlock climate action at scale.
· For traditional Fintechers: during my participation at the Greek House in Davos, my co-panelist from Clarity AI, a Fintech focused on global sustainability announced that Klarna will be using Clarity AI’s data and capabilities to promote environmentally conscious brands to its 150 million shoppers.
· My last reflections are from attending session at the Equality Lounge. Helen Clark, the ex-priminister of New Zealand, reminded us of the 3Cs that have devastated and continue to devastate women much more than men — COVID, Climate, Conflict. She also made it clear that even though women lean-in as much as me, women get knocked out much more than men. This is a harsh reality that persists. She closed with a anti-polarization mantra for all of us `Never turn opponents into enemies`.
· Lastly, a sustainable finance topic at the Equality Lounge was about the Global Fashion Agenda whose mission is to help fashion brands become sustainable. The largest impact on this front will come by shifting manufacturing processes which are predominantly in the Global South. To move the needle we need to fund change in manufacturing first with renewable energy funding. Financial services and the Capital markets need to invest to help the Global South shift to clean energy.
The sessions I participated in Davos + reflections
· Full recording of the panel at the Greek House with Christos Dimas. Deputy Minister of Research, Technology and Innovation, Hellenic Republic, and Chris Ciompi Head of Marketing, Clarity AI on `FinTech changing the world — Investment in Digital Industries and the new Innovation Ecosystem`
You can also hear the Greek Deputy minister talk about the Viva Wallet / JPMorgan deal and how the appropriate policies allowed Viva Wallet employees to benefit from their stock options.
· The 4th World Innovation Economics full-day event at the Sunstar hotel was extremely well organized and I was delighted to organize an all-women panel with diverse Fintech topics. Congratulations to Philip J. Weights and Spandana Ayachitam for the organization. Dr. Anino Emuwa spoke about African Women and payments, Jennifer Wines introduced the shift in thinking about Wealth (upcoming book), Sanja Kon spoke about crypto and e-commerce, and Aurora Chiste about regenerative finance and fashion.
· The Metaverse Academy activities with their partners ArtMeta, CV Labs, TrustSwap, and Tezos, were all the blast. I got to go into the gallery created specifically for their events during Davos and also to participate in a full 1 h session with Dr. Martha Boeckenfeld and Arun Krishnakumar, where through our avatars we discussed the Future of Money in the Metaverse.
In addition, I had the great pleasure to meet in person at the CV Labs networking lounge two of our (Martha`s and mine) new colleagues from the Fast Future Executive faculty. Ravin Jesuthasan, Senior Partner and Global Leader for Transformation Services at Mercer and author of `Work without jobs`, and Cortney Harding, award winning Founder and CEO of `Friends with Holograms` a transformational VR/AR agency. The Fast Future Fundamentals is a new educational initiative that 12 thought leaders will be teaching live covering 12 Curated Topics Of The Future That Every Professional Should Understand. One Topic A Month & 1 Hour Each. Delivered Virtual Live. See more here https://www.fastfutureexecutive.com/
 Author of the “Ascent of Money” and Historian; Milbank Family Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution
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