Friday, January 27, 2006

The Value of Attending Davos

Trying to explain the value of being here runs a real risk. I call it the name-dropping risk. There are so many cool people here, and in many cases this is my main opportunity to say hi to them in a year. The other thing is that I'm almost exclusively talking to people with an active interest in social entrepreneurship or a particular social cause. Serving society actively engages the great majority of people who are attending Davos.

For example, I got to talk to Sir Richard Branson (with a dozen social entrepreneurs), and Peter Gabriel. I went to a lunch with young global leaders with the guy who heads the Xbox360 project for Microsoft, Brian Behlendorf (Mr. Apache, the open source web server), as well as sitting next to John Wood, founder of Room to Read, and next to him was an gold medal winning Olympic athlete who works to help poor kids in war-torn countries learn to and have access to play. John Wood is writing a book on his experiences to be published this year, and I'm hoping to do the same next year. His advice was very helpful.

I was able to sit with big league Silicon Valley types, such as Larry Page of Google, the venture capitalists Ann Winblad and Vinod Khosla, and got to catch up with my Caltech classmate Bill Gross, Mr. Idealab and currently working on what we dubbed "half price solar." I tried to connect Bill with Bunker Roy, Mr. Barefoot College in India, who trains illiterate people to be solar power engineers.

So, back to the name dropping issue. I'm not here to be able to drop these names; I'm here because these people have the power and the inclination to improve our society. They control intellectual property, capital and expertise, all of which is needed to make the world better. This is a rare chance to bring up issues, engage the interest of these folks in hearing more. As I usually disclaim, I'm not here to ask rich people for money. I am here to ask world leaders in different fields to be interested in what our movement does and try to connect them to the right opportunities to make change. And some of those opportunities might lead to working with Benetech!

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