Highlights from NEAR at Davos: Crypto Goes Mainstream

June 2, 2022

Hello, NEAR world. From May 22-26th, the global Web3 community assembled at Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. Each year, policymakers and industry leaders descend on Davos to discuss the most important issues facing the world.  

While Web3 wasn’t officially on the WEF agenda, its presence loomed large. This year’s WEF featured insights from the Web3 world on blockchain, crypto, and the Open Web. 

Several NEAR community members and partners attended WEF to help educate and network with global leaders on Web3 innovation. Here are the highlights from NEAR at Davos. 

Crypto Main Street

WEF effectively split the town of Davos in two. At the invite-only Congress, only the people with the right badges could attend the official forum. On the other, The Promenade”, events were free and open, with a noticeable “come as you are” vibe. 

While many representatives from governments, big tech firms, and large enterprises appeared at The Promenade,  major crypto and Web3 players dominated the space.  Along Crypto Main Street, crypto firms spent billions renting out shop fronts for visibility. Players occupying The Promenade included platforms like Polkadot, CasperLabs, Circle, Ripple, and others. 

Amidst soaring inflation, higher interest rates, and Terra/Luna’s collapse, Web3’s show of long-term commitment was a must. At Davos, questions arose over the sustainability of cryptocurrencies, stablecoins, and decentralized apps, and the community was there to answer them. 

Crypto Main Street’s biggest draw was “The Sanctuary”—a church space sponsored by Filecoin Foundation. Located just off The Promenade, the venue was a place for all to chill with free Bitcoin pizza slices and local beer, as well as learn from a strategic CNBC venue hosting crypto-related talks.

Web3’s appearance at Davos also reaffirmed the obvious: blockchain and digital assets, as well as growing mainstream interest in crypto are shaping the new financial landscape. 

NEAR talks at The Sanctuary

NEAR Foundation CEO Marieke Flament took the stage for the panel titled “Crypto, Quantum and AI: Perspectives on Emerging Tech and Sustainability”. The panel also featured Coinbase founder Michael Casey and Jack Hidary, CEO of Sandbox AI. Flament and the other panel members explored sustainability issues facing powerful blockchain technologies. 

Flament and the panelists agreed that blockchain sustainability is not just about the environmental impact. Other sustainability concerns include long term usability and relevance in a future defined by quantum computing and artificial intelligence. 

The panel also talked about the role technologists can play in educating the world about the possibility of blockchain. Attracting more talent to the sector was also a big topic of conversation on the panel.

NEAR Co-founder Illia Polosukhin also took The Sanctuary stage for a fireside chat on blockchain as a force for good. In conversation with Gillian Tett, Editor at Large for the Financial Times, Pololukhin spoke about using cryptocurrencies for humanitarian aid. 

Polouskhin, who is Ukrainian, spoke about how effectively money had been sent via crypto to his home country during the war. A co-founder of Unchain Fund, he explained how the blockchain-based initiative raised millions in crypto to support Ukraine with humanitarian assistance, and how the model can be applied to other charitable causes.  

Gillian, who is passionate about ESG, sustainability, and “moral money”, seemed genuinely moved by the discussion. After their fireside chat, she stayed on the stage to speak with Polosukhin. 

There were several other big Web3 stories at Davos. Microsoft and Accentrue announced the Global Collaboration Village, which aims to improve metaverse functionality and engagement. Filecoin Foundation also announced plans to host blockchain nodes in space with defense contractor Lockheed Martin. 

NEAR in the news from Davos

NEAR figures appeared in a variety of Davos press coverage, including interviews with Coindesk, Forkast News, Bloomberg TV, and Reuters. No small task, since many of the journalists at Davos were restricted to official Congress events. 

Forkast News, a Hong Kong-based crypto news media platform, sat down with Marieke Flament to discuss her takeaways from Davos, as well as her thoughts on the future of blockchain. In a pre-recorded broadcast, she said that crypto is not something that can be ignored. 

“It’s part of the conversation,” Flament remarked. “It’s open, it’s actually inclusive, and it wants collaboration, and it can help solve some of our biggest challenges.” 

This interview also aired on Coindesk’s channel, which hosts the Daily Forkast show.  (Flament’s segment kicks in at the 4:47 mark.)  

Flament and Polosukhin also sat down with Reuters to talk Web3 talent and the need for global regulatory action. Their thoughts also appeared in Reuters’ Davos-related article “Get Your Crypto House in Order”. Flament’s views on India’s talent pool were clear: “When you map out where the next generations of developers are and where is the talent and where actually should we go, India pops up very, very high on the map.” 

Live from Zug, Switzerland on WEF’s final day, Flament made a guest appearance on Bloomberg Surveillance: Early Edition TV Show. (Her spot kicks in at the 1 hour 15-minute mark). Flament spoke on stablecoins, the Terra crisis, and how to tackle similar cases of isolated volatility. 

Although there were some rumors of weariness among regulators and policymakers at Davos, and skepticism from traditional banks, crypto remained front and center in the minds of Davos delegates. They understood that Web3 is undergoing rapid innovation, and its influence will only continue to grow in the coming years.

Sweatcoin’s ‘Walk for Ukraine’ challenge

Sweatcoin, the app that allows users to earn by moving, was also at Davos. Featured in the official WEF Davos app, the pioneers in the “movement economy” hosted “The Davos Challenge: Walk for Ukraine”. Sweatcoin encouraged Davos delegates and millions of other app users to track their steps and donate the sweatcoins generated to the Free Ukraine Foundation

The Davos challenge was part of the “Sweatcoin for Good” initiative. In this larger campaign, Sweatcoin invited users, in-app, to donate the sweatcoins they earn with their steps to a variety of charities.  

To participate in the challenge, users downloaded the free Sweatcoin app (iOs and Android) and started walking. With the foot traffic at Davos, the walking challenge was a great way to put newly minted sweatcoins to good use.

Over the course of 7 days, Davos delegates and other Sweatcoin users donated 2,753,102 $SWC to the Free Ukraine Foundation. There were over 60K unique givers and nearly 900K unique visits to the Sweatcoin app during the campaign. 

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