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Top 10 Takeaways From Davos

 

Banner on top 10 takeaways from DavosI just returned from an energizing weeklong visit to the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. I have participated several times, starting in 2002, when I was named a Young Global Leader. This was my first post-Covid era visit, and I am happy to report that the magic that brings world and business leaders to this cold mountain town is alive and well.

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Highlights of my 2024 visit include:

  • Aligning to the broad cause of Rebuilding Trust around geopolitical issues, the climate and AI;
  • Listening to inspiring leaders such as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, whose appeal for peace received a standing ovation and whose ask to “strengthen my economy, I will strengthen your security” is still ringing in my ears;
  • Hearing Satya Nadella of Microsoft (whom I had the honor of working with after I sold my first company to Microsoft in the mid-’90s) who spoke eloquently during the fireside chat with Klaus Schwab on how LLMs have been trained to understand human language and now they have to be trained to understand language of nature;
  • Getting insights from sessions that will hopefully result in behavior change in our daily lives – “Young Brains and Screens” and “Navigating Longer Lifespans;”
  • Elevating the conversation around AI as a Driving Force for the Economy and Society – lots of food for thought in the sessions on GenAI as the steam engine of the fourth industrial revolution, the boon or bane of creativity, thinking through augmentation, ethics and regulation and industry applications; my take is that AI is a paradigm shift that will be bigger than the Web but investors looking for tulips are overvaluing startups, which, in my two decades of experience as an investor, never ends well;
  • Thinking of quantum computing’s black swan potential to go mainstream for applications in drug discovery, materials science and supply chain optimization; my take is that it will take a unique founder/investor combination to build these kinds of deeptech companies;
  • Hearing leaders debate on how to develop a long-term strategy for climate, nature and energy by pursuing a systemic approach to achieve a carbon-neutral and nature-positive world by 2050 while providing affordable, secure and inclusive access to energy, food and water; my take is that it will take product-first founders with breakthrough business models (similar to our company SolarCity during the cleantech wave of the 2010s) to grow into enduring companies;
  • Sitting with a group of 25 global VC leaders around a table discussing the state of our industry, including LP mindset, distributions, fund size, exit markets and evolving fund models; my take is that venture capitalists need to be guided by cash-on-cash returns, by providing solid distributions to LPs;
  • Saluting the winners of the Crystal Awards (an architect & educator, an Academy Award-winning actress and a humanitarian), listening to an AI-driven immersive music performance, participating in sundowners but leaving before they turned into midnight parties;
  • Last (literally before I boarded the plane back) and not least, sharing my optimistic view of how global entrepreneurship will continue to thrive in a discussion on a panel titled “No Rain, No Flowers: Funding Start-ups.”

 

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“No Rain, No Flowers: Funding Start-ups”

Watch the panel recording or read the full transcript.

 

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