CoinDesk at WEF 2020: Crypto Themes to Watch as Davos Gets Underway


CoinDesk will be on the ground in Davos from Jan. 20–24 chronicling all things crypto at the annual gathering of the world’s economic and political elite. Below is the first edition of our pop-up newsletter, CoinDesk Confidential: Davos. Subscribe below.

Get your Fourth Industrial Revolution hardhats on – it’s time to ponder the slew of problems ailing today’s global economy!

Hello, it’s Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, the preamble to the 50th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum begins today. I’m Zack Seward, managing editor of CoinDesk, and I’ll be your guide to all things blockchain and crypto at this yearly confab of global leaders and their many hangers-on.

Weather Forecast: Fresh snowfall on Saturday and Sunday has the skiers happy. ⛷

For Monday, a high of 25°F (-3°C), low of 13°F (-10°C). Chance of precipitation: 10 percent.

Setting the Stage

Blockchain is more prominent on the WEF agenda than in years past but that’s not to say the technology will have a starring role in the Congress Centre itself. The thing to remember about Davos is that there’s the WEF’s main stage (there are 53 heads of state this year, according to the WEF) and dozens of side events.

Sustainability is a major theme of this year’s event, with climate change activist Greta Thunberg arguably being the top speaker (U.S. President Donald Trump is also speaking). And while the WEF programming on Monday is only opening ceremonies, other events will already be in full swing.

Don’t Miss…

The Global Blockchain Business Council is a partner of CoinDesk Confidential: Davos. Visit us at the GBBC Lounge at Hotel Europe on the Promenade.

Here are the three crypto-related events on Monday worth knowing about:

1️⃣ Cryptocurrency exchange LATOKEN is hosting the Blockchain Economic Forum at Guggerbach Hall. It kicks off at 15:30 CET with a keynote from Chris Giancarlo, the former chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Hot on the heels of his newly organized efforts to push for a U.S. central bank digital currency (CBDC), this session will be one to watch.

2️⃣ Ethereum co-founder and ConsenSys chief Joe Lubin is headlining CryptoMountain Rocks at Hotel Morosani Schweizerhof. Kicking off at 14:00 CET, this event promises ample discussion of decentralized finance (DeFi), stablecoins and what to expect in 2020. It’s going to be deeper in the weeds for ethereum fans on the slopes.

3️⃣ The other event is clearly a can’t-miss about which I am not biased at all: the CoinDesk Confidential: Davos Kick-Off Reception. This party starts at 19:00 CET at the GBBC lounge at the Hotel Europe. We’re booked solid but make sure you click Tuesday’s newsletter for tidbits on any notable happenings. We have quite a guest list already including MakerDAO founder Rune Christensen, ex-CFTC chair Chris Giancarlo and many more. 

Sound Smart

If you find yourself on a ski lift with a world leader, here are a few conversation starters. WEF insiders know these things to be true:

  • The specter of Libra has been a catalytic event among the world’s central bankers.
  • Expedited efforts from the People’s Bank of China to develop the digital yuan have raised geopolitical eyebrows.
  • As such, central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) will dominate the conversation this year.

CBDCs are government-administered, digital versions of sovereign currencies (but don’t have to be decentralized like real cryptocurrencies) and are a necessarily reactive development. The way central bankers see it, a widely used supranational stablecoin (be it Libra or something else) would undermine their ability to influence the economy through monetary policy. 

“CBDC” should be a busy square on the WEF 2020 bingo card. Watch this space.

🥇🥈🥉Thought Leaderboard 🥇🥈🥉

We’re handing out gongs to the brainiest crypto thought-leaders at Davos this year. We’ll be tracking the usual suspects’ panel appearances, briefings and media spots, so email me at if you’ve noticed someone’s overwhelming brilliance…

Related Reading

Last week CoinDesk brought you a plethora of Davos-related content for upping your conversation game.

Bonus Feature:

🎿CoinDesk’s Leigh Cuen was at the Crypto Finance Conference in St. Moritz last week, where crypto luminaries like Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss took a (brief) break from skiing to discuss where bitcoin fits in the currency Cold War.

Double Bonus:

📺Leigh, Michael and I do a quick rundown of what we’ll be exploring this week:

Media Diet

CoinDesk Confidential on Telegram for the latest on-the-ground updates from Crypto Davos.

unDavos on Telegram (invite only) for updates from those still working their way up the badge-system hierarchy. We might be able to help with an invite…

Wall Street Journal WEF live blog for Davos dispatches from the financial paper of record.

Quartz Davos Daily Brief newsletter for the above, but less stodgy.

Politico’s Davos Playbook for a spicy-yet-comprehensive telling of the confab’s political angles.

Micah White’s strategy briefings for notes on the Occupy founder’s latest efforts to build an “activist cryptocurrency.”

Who Won Davos Crypto Twitter?

Don’t worry, XRP fans, Brad can afford to pay for his own speaking spots:

Seen on the Promenade 👀

For the WEF Annual Meeting, the main street of Davos is transformed into “the Promenade,” with local shops temporarily taken over by internet giants, sovereign wealth funds and other businesses looking to shill their wares to the global elite.

We took a stroll Sunday night as work crews were putting the finishing touches on signage and screen displays. A few notes:

Crypto liquidity provider XBTO was the only crypto brand with signage: Last year, a number of crypto companies had “activations” on the Promenade. 2019’s big fish, ethereum venture studio ConsenSys, which had its own Ethereal Lounge on the main drag, is nowhere to be seen in 2020.

The cryptography killer is here: A quantum computer was being set up at the IBM lounge on the Promenade. With “quantum supremacy” being declared by Google late last year, the computing power behind these machines may one day pose an existential threat to cryptographically secured systems. Read up here and here.

Big ad-spend at Zürich Flughafen: Greeting visitors touching down at ZRH this weekend: a big old ad touting Bitcoin Suisse’s crypto-finance chops. We wonder how much they paid for the privilege…

Office of the Day

We’re holding it down at the unofficial CoinDesk Davos bureau this morning before we hit the icy streets. Fun fact: the CoinDesk squad is staying at a former sanatorium up the hill from the main drag. Great views, great bunk beds!

📍Pin Drop

Find CoinDesk today at…

The Blockchain Economic Forum starting at 15:00 CET, and then at our very own CoinDesk Confidential launch party at Hotel Europe from 19:00 onward.

Contact Us

The CoinDesk team on the ground in Davos is:

  • Michael Casey – @mikejcasey on Twitter and Telegram
  • Zack Seward – @zackseward on Twitter and Telegram
  • Leigh Cuen – @La__Cuen on Twitter
  • Joanne Po – @JoannePo on Twitter and Telegram
  • Ali Powell – @aliknievel on Twitter and Telegram
  • Aaron Stanley – @AaronWStanley on Twitter, @AaronStanley on Telegram

Are you here in the mountains with a hot tip that simply must be shared? Were you unable to make it this year and have a request that would assuage your FOMO?

Get in touch, say hi!

Till tomorrow, 

— Zack “Let’s Play Hockey” Seward

Disclosure Read More

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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