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5 things you might not know about Davos

Posted by Chad O'Connor  February 1, 2014 02:00 AM

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If you read the paper or flipped on the TV in January, you likely heard people talking about “Davos.” Davos refers to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which takes place in Davos, Switzerland - a ski city in the Swiss Alps. Who gets to go? Heads of State, captains of industry, influential leaders of non-profit organizations and A-list celebrities. In addition, representatives from innovative start-ups across the globe are invited to the event each year.

This past August, WiTricity was selected by the WEF as one of 2014's Technology Pioneers, recognized for our wireless power technology's potential to transform the future of business and society. This meant a trip to Dalian, China in September for the Forum's Annual Meeting of the New Champions and a invite to Davos.

Having read about Davos, many have an idea of what it might be like. After attending, however, a few things took me by surprise:

1. Groups intermix
With major political figures and CEOs of a global corporation filling much of the invite list, the expectation is that you might brush shoulders with some pretty big names at Davos. Interestingly, the Tech Pioneers were very much intermixed with these big names throughout the entire event. After sitting at dinner with the Mayor of one of Africa's biggest cities, it was clear that Davos breaks down all walls. Even the organizers of the event encouraged going outside of your field of expertise when interacting with other attendees.

2. The best conversations happen outside of the formal events.
Davos is made up of both public events and private, more intimate gatherings. While these were incredibly stimulating, the best conversations happen outside of the formal agenda. From sitting on a bus with the head of one of the world's major communication companies, to having a casual dinner with a top executive from one of the most influential consumer brands, the most interesting interactions were in everyday settings. Rarely do you get a chance to have these kind of unguarded conversations with such individuals. At Davos, riding the shuttle bus is one of the most exciting adventures.

3. Security was tight, but unobtrusive.
With so many powerful leaders in one city, security was, of course, a major priority. There were metal detectors before going into each hotel, and military presence was obvious. That said, the city of Davos organized this tight security with the precision of a Swiss watch, making it easy for attendees to get around and ensuring safety measures did not intrude on the experience.

4. The Swiss don't use road salt.
Coming from the snowy streets of Boston, where my car has a constant fight with that white salt dust, it was shocking to see that road salt was nowhere to be found in my trip to Davos. The city does not use salt and instead puts down little pebbles to help with traction. Knowing attendees might not be used to walking untreated wintery conditions (and likely hoping to avoid a few runs to the hospital), the WEF gave out shoe clamps to everyone that acted like mini tire chains for your feet. I've been to many conferences, and received all sorts of things in conference goody bags, but this was a first.

5. Boston was a force to be reckoned with.
As exciting as it was to be getting on a plane to meet people from across the globe, it was equally impressive to see just how many of my neighbors were with me. Knowing that Boston is the Athens of the new world, and our universities are renowned, it's expected that there would be a few individuals from the 617 area code. But the added presence of our state's technology and life sciences communities underscored that what we are working on here in The Hub is addressing the major global issues that all countries are concerned about.

It was awe-inspiring to be a part of Davos, and it was all I had imagined and more. Spending a week with some of the brightest and most socially conscious individuals of our time was humbling to say the least. The best part of Davos? I'll have to get back to you on that. The most fun? Let's just say some of the tech folks broke away from the suits and formalities and headed up to one of the area's well-known mountains, had some Swiss fondue, and went tobogganing.

Eric Giler is CEO of WiTricity.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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