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[OPINION] Lessons for entrepreneurs from Davos

You might be forgiven for thinking that of all the places that one could take lessons from in entrepreneurship, Davos would probably not be high on the list.

Many people think of Davos as a place where the so-called elite gather once a year for a talk-shop and then go back home with conscience satisfied that they have done their bit to save the world. But it is far more than that.

Entrepreneurs know that sometimes you have to be prepared to dig a bit deeper if you want to reach a place that no-one else does. So too with Davos.

Yes, there are the sessions dealing with lofty global trade goals, eradicating poverty and so forth. But there are also sessions where you can listen to the likes of a Jack Ma, the entrepreneurial founder of Alibaba, the e-commerce giant from China. He too struggled with getting a loan from a bank when he first started out. If he had given up on his vision we may never have seen Alibaba become the juggernaut it is today, a trade portal that links thousands of small businesses around the world.

And then there is Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. At Davos he said that he never imagined how successful Google would be when he co-founded the company still as a student. And he never imagined that one day he would be told that the “prime minister of quite an important company” recently called Alphabet (Google’s parent company) one of the four powers left in the world.

As he said in his session, “If I told you all of the dumb things I did, we’d have to have a much longer session.” Further to this, he said, “And the successes, they often are chance.”

This belief in serendipity also extends to a view on the future, where he extended a caveat to his ability to predict the next technological breakthrough, despite being someone who actually created a technological breakthrough.

Therein lies an important lesson for entrepreneurs: Just because you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future shouldn’t stop you from taking chances.

As he puts it, “I would encourage young folks to take chances and pursue their dreams and try to silence out the voices that say, ‘Actually, there are 1,000 startups trying to do self-riding bicycles”.

So that leaves us with a few important lessons from two of the greatest entrepreneurial successes over the past 25 years: Be persistent. Have a vision. Silence the inner doubting voices. Take chances.

You may just succeed.

Arno Lawrenz is head of Fixed Income Portfolio Management at Ashburton Investments.

For more news, analysis and insights on Davos 2017 go to EWN’s WEF portal in partnership with Ashburton Investments.