It’s a bit unclear at Davos when a session is on the record and when it’s off the record. In years gone by (I am told) part of the magic of Davos was the opportunity to hear the thoughts of global leaders off the record. But in the digital age of bloggers, Twitter and YouTube, the dividing line is less clear. And I think that is a good thing. Davos is much more transparent now.
The place is awash with bloggers and “tweeters”. Folk like the legendary Michael Arrington and Robert Scoble, Loic Le Meur of France and Richard Muirhead of Tideway in the UK broadcast continuous updates to their Twitter followers running in to the tens of thousands around the world.
Given the scarcity of liquidity, the lack of IPOs, the limited number of meaningful M&A exits, and the shrinking capital base to fund private equity and venture capital, it’s not surprising that many people at Davos question the future of these forms of risk capital. Well, in a homage to Mark Twain, I would say the rumours about the death of venture capital have been greatly exaggerated.
A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum. In December 2008, according to global internet research firm comScore*, the world reached one billion online users. The country with the single largest online audience is now China with 180 million users, which surpassed the U.S. with 163 million connected users. North America now represents 18.4 per cent of the global online audience compared to 28 per cent for Europe and 42.3 per cent for Asia Pacific (Latin America represents 7.4 per cent and the Middle East and Africa make up 4.8 per cent). To put this in perspective, 66 per cent of the world’s online audience was in the US in 1996. Today, 83 per cent of the world’s online population is outside the US and able to track what is being said in Davos in real-time.