Monday, January 30, 2006

Jimmy Does Davos

At the suggestion of Victor D'Allant (Mr. Social Edge), I've invited my 20-year-old son to comment on his experience accompanying me to Davos. Jimmy wasn't admitted to the core Forum events, but was able to attend about half of what I did.

My Davos Experience
-Jimmy Fruchterman

I really wasn't sure what to expect coming to Davos. When my father offered to take me I accepted without hesitation. Who would pass on Switzerland, not to mention a short jaunt to Austria and Liechtenstein? I tried not to prejudge the adventure, but of course I thought I'd see some famous people, go to some meetings which could be cool but I wasn't entirely confident I'd understand. Some of my expectations came true, some not.

I had the privilege of attending all the social entrepreneur sessions, and learned a number of things. Everybody there is smart, passionate, and doing wonderful things for the world, but they're still human. Many don't yet have the skills to sell themselves, and that was something I thought that 90% of them could have improved upon. They were generally much better one on one than in speaking to the group. Passion doesn't always translate into good communication of your ideas. And one of the major problems social entrepreneurs have is getting the word out properly. However, it is still very difficult to come out of these sessions not wanting to be one of them 10 years down the road.

I had planned on attending the Open Forum (anyone can attend) but ended up never making it into any of the sessions. The one that I had planned on attending was unbeknownst to me also being attended by Angelina Jolie, whose name I felt like I heard a minimum of three times a day. I learned that celebrity fever afflicts all types. The outcome of her attendance was that there were lines to get in hours before the event and I only showed up about 10 minutes early. Oops.

I was able to witness some protesters, and some odd behaviors amongst them. Several oddly dressed young men and women were passing out fake US dollar bills, and protesting for "the losers of WEF." Unfortunately I often felt that the protesters knew only what they were protesting against, and not what they were protesting for. Some of the ones I saw with my dad the next day were clearer in their message, protesting against China's mistreatment of individuals following a certain religion. There were also kids dressed up in worn suits smoking cigars blowing smoke in people's faces, seemingly trying to start a fight? I glared at them as they passed by hard enough that they didn't do anything to me. I also saw two of them posing with briefcases, not moving or even blinking, for the 5 or so minutes I observed them. But for the mist of their breath they could have been statues. I found this to be one of the more... creative protests.

I should wrap this up so I won't say much about the snowboarding, suffice it to say I thoroughly enjoyed a chance to get out on the slopes, and even got my dad to join me for a couple of hours on the slopes.

One of the highlights was going to several cocktail parties, in particular Friday night's Architects of Global Change party (honoring the social entrepreneurs), and the Google/Accel party. At the former I saw Michael Douglas and Peter Gabriel,so I did manage to get in a few famous faces. I also got to see that all the Davos people are completely human. They eat, they drink (too much at times) and at times the social interaction isn't all too advanced from a college gathering. At the Google party I had the pleasure of meeting Larry Page, who was down to earth and very friendly. I was flattered that he actually spoke to me and my dad for a while, and even more so that he remembered me when I saw him at the outdoors Sunday luncheon at the Schatzalp, which was spectacular. I was able to advise him from prior experience that he should be careful on how much hot food he put on his plate, as it generally got cold before you could get through it all.

My experience at Davos was deeply rewarding, and I really appreciate the Schwab Foundation for allowing me to attend.

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