Davos Gives Entrepreneurs a Hug
The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, may be far from a big draw for entrepreneurs, but the four-day meeting's implications will surely reverberate across Silicon Valley.
The forum, which kicks off today and runs through Saturday, is known for bringing together presidents, monarchs and industry titans to talk global business, politics and philanthropy. But the annual event is becoming decidedly more entrepreneur-friendly. A big theme for this year is disruptive innovation.
Not only are entrepreneurs and business execs the likes of Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer expected to join with Davos regulars like Kofi Annan, Bono and Christine Lagarde, but a number of the panel discussions will focus on entrepreneurial issues.
Among others, there's "Doing Business the Right Way," which is expected to delve into ideas for responsible capitalism--that is, ways that businesses can do good and do well. Panelist Bill Gross, the co-founder of business incubator Idealab, will look at how regulatory and policy frameworks can better foster science and technology-driven growth.
The 30-year-old CEO of Spain's online ticket seller Entradas.com, Maria Fanjul, and others will consider youth unemployment during a panel discussion on "the Millennial Challenge."
Mayer is expected to pitch in on two panels: One looks at the emerging issues of 2014, and their implications for the global economy and industry. In a second panel, she plans to focus on the societal, economic and technological forces that stand to reshape the digital landscape.
There's also an open forum called "Entrepreneurship--Going Beyond Boundaries." The session is expected to offer up inspiring stories of entrepreneurs overcoming extraordinary circumstances to tackle important local issues.
Such discussions will obviously be "big picture" and may not have many direct ties to how entrepreneurs and business owners can run their companies today, but the wide-ranging discussions could help surface ideas you hadn't considered. You might also plant a seed for how to tackle future business dilemmas.
In this vein, previous Davos speaker and Planatir Technologies President Shyam Sankar called his conversation on big data at last year's Davos event insightful. Highlighting the lessons he learned from fellow panelists, he noted in a blog post after the event that big data is neither a problem nor solution on its own, "but a means to an end--'big insight,' if you will." Sankar who is expected to participate again this year, plans to speak on a panel called "The Big Brother Problem." That talk is expected to look at the consequences of collecting private information on personal privacy and data security.
While few business owners can afford the cost of membership and steep ticket price of more than $70,000--much less the airfare to Switzerland--you don't need to miss out on the event entirely. Check out the World Economic Forum's livestream.
DIANA RANSOM | Features Editor
Diana Ransom is features editor at Inc. She has been covering the never-dull world of small business and entrepreneurship for years at a variety of publications including The Wall Street Journal, SmartMoney.com, the New York Daily News, Fast Company magazine and Entrepreneur. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.