World Economic Forum

It Started in China

Experiencing the World Economic Forum and the inspiration for new venture capital

Eighteen months ago, I wrote of my experience in Dalian, China. I had just attended the annual summer meeting of the World Economic Forum, held jointly with the Young Global Leaders (YGL), which I joined earlier in 2019. Of that experience, I wrote that I was “agitated” — a word I chose carefully to acknowledge I had been taken out of my comfort zone, and was left aware of so much more and itching to do something about it, but not knowing what.

Figure 1 — Cortado Ventures launch with partners David Woods and fellow YGL Mike Moradi.

Highlights

Day 1

Session on “Reimagining Education” stressed the need to train and develop entrepreneurship. This was a theme across continents. Even universities not traditionally focused on entrepreneurship now have innovation workshops and “hackathons”.

Figure 2 — Survey results of WEF poll.

Day 2

The US rejoined the COVAX program which aims to distribute 2 billion doses of Covid vaccines this year.

Day 3

In “Accelerating a Real Economy-led Recovery,” theme across countries was building infrastructure. Potentially enabled by high levels of liquidity, and a significant source of jobs by so many displaced from Covid.

Day 4

Inspired by some fellow members of The Forum of Young Global Leaders. They talked about their tech solutions launched on the WEF social media platform TopLink. Desolenator converts ocean to fresh water; Reforestum uses opt-in satellite imagery to build trust in large-scale projects; Cubex Global saves maritime shippers money and decreases impact of oceanic shipping; Global Citizen Capital using tech to help people reopen with Covid and distributed 1M masks.

Day 5

“Retooling Global Foreign Direct Investment” focused on removing trade barriers for economic development domestically. Reps from China, France and Finland discussed efforts to attract FDI, with China boasting of their openness but stopping short on areas “key to their security” which IMO seems to exclude many US tech companies.

Figure 3 — Where immunizations go.

My Takeaway

Quick take surprise to the upside:

  • Liquidity — Financial institutions have massive liquidity which is a source of encouragement and also opportunity to build back better, as in using to incentivize investments in sustainable development.
  • Sustainable development — There is a need and opportunity to build infrastructure for economic development and employment. With emerging technologies, liquidity, and more political will than ever, there is a push for environmentally sustainable development.
  • Energy and the environment — A common theme for WEF, many speakers addressed the need for energy technologies and policies that prioritize the environment.
  • Technology stewardship — As technology increasingly permeates our societies (accelerated by the pandemic) the need for security and data protection is more important than ever. Questions like “who owns our data?” and “are there limits to what is acceptable?” prompted rigorous discussion.
Figure 4 — Power cost surge in winter ’21 storm.

Managing Partner for Cortado Ventures and Young Global Leader in the World Economic Forum. Investor and advisor for tech startups, building a better future.