Business

Davos: 'You need a lot of discipline to survive'

Taavet Hinrikus in Davos 2016 Image copyright Transferwise

There's been global coverage of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week.

Headlines have ranged from the French prime minister Manuel Valls warning that the migration crisis is putting the EU at risk, to BP's boss Bob Dudley arguing that UK investment was at risk if the country were to leave the EU.

But what's it like to attend the event? Taavet Hinrikus, chief executive of money transfer company TransferWise, came for the first time this year and told the BBC about his experience.

Here it is in his own words:

"It was pretty cool to meet [Microsoft chief executive] Satya Nadella! I also bumped into lots of old friends and random people, including my former colleague at Skype, founder Niklas Zennstrom [Mr Hinrikus was the company's first employee] and the [UK chancellor] George Osborne.

But I was disappointed to miss Kevin Spacey singing karaoke in the Piano bar.

There's not many events I would attend for four days. The time involved is a bigger investment than the money. But I think it's been worth it.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption "Don't sign up for every dinner or event and buy good snow gear," says Taavet Hinrikus

On one day I had 12 meetings from 7am to 8.30pm and didn't get to bed until about 2am. I held meetings with bank bosses, an NGO, talked on panels and did media interviews. It's also been exciting meeting chief executives outside my industry. One in particular I'm hoping a deal might arise from.

Worst part

I've been surprised at how candid and open the discussions have been - maybe because of the lack of time everyone has here. But discussions that would usually take months and months can take half an hour here.

You need a lot of discipline to survive the event. Luckily I have a great personal assistant and my diary tells me not only where the meeting is but also how long it takes to walk there.

My top tips would be to leave room for things to happen by chance, don't sign up for every dinner or event and buy good snow gear.

The worst part was being fined by Swiss police. I had parked a rental car outside my hotel. It snowed overnight, reminding me of winters in Estonia [where he comes from], so I had to clear the windscreen.

I drove away but was stopped by a policeman for not having cleared it sufficiently. He marched me to an ATM and fined me 450 Swiss francs (£300; $428) - he wouldn't accept TransferWise."

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