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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 16:52 GMT
Why would anybody want to come to Davos?
By Tim Weber
Business editor, BBC News website, Davos

A session at Davos 2007
Not all the seminars at Davos are conventional

It's cold, it's remote, and it's expensive.

So why would anybody really want to come to Davos? This year there aren't even any Hollywood stars to see!

Of course, for big companies the attendance fee of 18,000 Swiss Francs (7,400; $14,400) is no object.

The most astounding fact is that so many bosses of huge companies take four days (plus travel) out of their busy diaries to come to this Swiss mountain valley.

But here they are, some still bleary-eyed and in rumpled trousers, having stepped off a plane from San Francisco just a few hours earlier.

And they get down to talk business.

"I'm here to see where we are with world issues in 2007, what is driving change, and how businesses will respond to that," says Mark Spelman of global consulting firm Accenture.

Peter Liu, founder of venture capital firm WI Harper Group, says coming to Davos is a "learning process", and a place to make a lot of new friends.

No email please

Even the first few sessions of the morning - on the global economy, climate change, the internet revolution, the Middle East - are packed with executives eager for hints where the world is heading.

A session called "leading in a networked world" turns into a 75-minute master class on how to lead your company in a time when instant communication and boundless information both empower and threaten to overwhelm bosses and staff.

Business card exchanged at Davos 2007
I'm looking to establish relationships that will help us go to the market
Anil Sethi
Flisom

As a high-powered panel of business leaders - among them the top people at insurance giant AIG, telecoms group BT and employment services firm Manpower - swap tips, other executives chip in with their experiences and questions.

The bosses in the audience, with rapt attention, listen, nod, scribble, make interjections.

And they go away with some radical ideas: Don't do e-mail, rely on face-to-face communications for the big picture; or redefine the role of chief executive by learning "the art of letting go" and "leading your business with your mind switched on but your hands off".

The cluster effect

For some, though, the opportunity to soak up new ideas is just an added benefit. They are here to network.

Where else can you find all the bosses of nearly all the big banks in one place?

Where else can the hard-travelling chief executive meet most of his suppliers and customers in one place?

And where else can technology pioneers - representing a select group of high-tech start-ups - meet rich investors, top technologists and potential business partners all in one place?

Anil Sethi runs the Swiss company Flisom, which has developed solar panels that are as flexible as a sheet of plastic.

In five years, he says, the technology will be cheap enough to produce electricity that can compete directly with traditional forms of energy.

"I'm looking to establish relationships that will help us to go to market," he says.

How Davos works

Rick Aubry runs Rubicon Programs, a social enterprise that helps homeless and poor people in the United States.

"After having come here a few times I finally understand how the WEF works," he says.

"Don't ask company bosses for something, offer them something, tell them how their association with our company can be of benefit to them, can enhance their brand."

For Yael Maguire, co-founder of tech start-up ThingMagic, it is the first time in Davos.

"I don't really know what to expect," he says.

He hopes for great meetings, interesting conversations and maybe a little help for his business.

During these four days in Davos he may just find all of that.


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