The hallway conversations I had at World Economic Forum

David Gergen has a conversation with Bill Clinton on the floor of the World Economic Forum

This week I’ve been wandering the hallways at the World Economic Forum meeting interesting people. Instead of keeping those conversations to myself I pulled out my iPhone 4 and recorded them with Cinchcast. Enjoy!

1. What it’s like to be a Quora reviewer, with Baidu’s Kaiser Kuo.

2. The Tech Guy (CTO) behind the World Economic Forum, Brian Behlendorf, told me about how the World Economic Forum is developing infrastructure and mobile apps to run the event.

3. Mashable’s founder, Pete Cashmore, talked about what he’s learned in Davos and the experiences he’s had. (He told me about dinner with a billionaire that could lead into something very special).

4. GE’s CMO, Beth Comstock is one of the top female executives in the world and she talked about what she’s trying to do to keep GE on top as one of the world’s largest corporations.

5. Discovered the future of “inside your body” drug tracking with Andrew Thompson, CEO of Mind-blowing technology to help people.

6. Discovered why people cheat and what the future of cheating (and beating cheaters) is with Duke University Professor Dan Ariely. Esther Dyson listened in and told me this was the best session of Davos for her.

7. The future of buildings with Serious Materials CEO, Kevin Surace.

8. How to protect your online reputation with’s CEO, Michael Fertik:

9. What are technology revolutions past and present with Esther Dyson.

10. The future of tablets and datacenters with Michael Dell.

11. The past and future of publishing with one of Europe’s most powerful publishers, Hubert Burda.

12. The future of cities with Chris Luebkeman, director for Global Foresight at the World Economic Forum.

13. The state of social media communities and addiction with Clay Shirky.

14. About China’s tech status with Kai-Fu Lee, former head of Google in China.

15. I had my mind blown by Harvard’s John Clippinger who taught me about the algorithmic corporation.

16. What Facebook is doing at the World Economic Forum by having a conversation with Randi Zuckerberg.

17. Forester’s CEO, George Colony, told me about trends in tech (the web is dead!?!)

18. The state of online news with Huffington Post’s CEO Eric Hippeau.

19. Price Waterhouse Cooper’s CEO told me what he’s learned about how CEOs think by surveying thousands of CEOs for its annual CEO survey.

20. Bloggers are more loyal employees, I learned, by talking with Francisco D’Souza, CEO of Cognizant, which has 100,000 employees.

21. Why Facebook is going to be the biggest bank in the world and how Ven is going to be the currency supporting it.

22. Wrapping up World Economic Forum 2011 with Jeff Jarvis.

Anyway, hope you enjoy these 20 conversations from the hallways at the World Economic Forum.


I will miss the old Y Combinator

One thing I love about Y Combinator before today is its austereness. Walk into InDinero’s original office, for instance, and you’ll see it actually is a house, where several people live, which keeps costs way down. This is typical for a Y Combinator company. The $17,000 they usually gave companies just doesn’t go far in expensive Silicon Valley.

Lately, however, companies like InDinero have been getting $1 to $5 million in angel or A rounds, which lets them get a real office. So, I’ve already noticed that I’m seeing fewer Y Combinator companies in low-cost situations like what I saw at InDinero.

Today, it was announced that Y Combinator companies could get a loan of $150,000 from Ron Conway’s SV Angel and Yuri Milner.

No longer will we hear stories like we heard from Airbnb’s founders of surviving off of cereal or “ramen.”

That bums me out, because struggle and sacrifice makes for great stories.

Davos hero: Elisabet de los Pinos

Davos hero: biotech pioneer

When I sat down last night at dinner I was facing Kevin Surace, CEO of Serious Materials, a clean-tech firm that’s had good success in the past year, with about 450 employees.

He quickly whispered in my ear that I must meet Elisabet de los Pinos. He said “she is doing work that could win the Nobel Prize in less than 10 years.”

I’m looking for heroes at Davos. People who I can show my sons and nieces as examples of people they should emulate as they go through college.

Along the journey of my life I’ve met and interviewed thousands of people, but Elisabet stands alone, even in the rarified air of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

She’s the founder and president of Aura Biosciences. Just look at the press she’s accumulating, like this article in TIME.

What has she done? Found a way to deliver chemotherapy directly to cancer without delivering the poison to other parts of a cancer patient’s body.

Potentially world-changing work.

But, there’s a reason that I see her as a hero.

1. She’s a scientist. I wish our media would present more images of scientists like her, who are doing world-changing work, and fewer images of people like Paris Hilton. Young people need to see that science is fun, and talking with her you get inspired about science again.
2. She’s approachable. With her warm smile she puts a friendly face on a difficult part of science: working at 25 nanometer-wide nanoparticles. She makes it easy to understand what she’s doing, and that’s a skill that very few scientists have.
3. She isn’t cynical. Talking with her she is clearly an idealist. She believes she can find a way to get her innovations out to both rich and poor. She hasn’t yet lost the sparkle in her eye. Translation: the pharma industry hasn’t beaten her down yet and I hope it never does.

Anyway, I hope to get an interview with her soon so you can see what I saw, that she is one of the heroes that we should introduce to our kids to inspire them to do great things with their lives.


I’m doing a series of interviews with interesting people I meet at the World Economic Forum. Here’s the ones I’ve done on the first morning:

1. Huffington Post CEO, Eric Hippeau talking with me and Henry Blodget, founder of Business Insider. Some interesting insights into the future of news. Henry is blogging about his Davos experience here.

2. Price Waterhouse Cooper Chairman, Robert E Moritz, talking about its annual CEO survey (you can find the survey here).

3. CEO of Cognizant, Francico D’Souza, who manages 100,000 employees, says they are noticing that employees who blog, even internally, are more loyal than employees who don’t.

4. CEO of Forrester, one of the big tech analyst firms, talks to me about what he’s noticing in the tech industry. He says some surprising things, especially about Google and Microsoft.