AI fever Davos: How AI stole the show from crypto at WEF 2024

DAVOS, Switzerland — The World Economic Forum (WEF) 2024 was a showcase of artificial intelligence (AI), as some of the world’s biggest companies displayed their AI products and services, proclaiming: “The future is AI.”

This was a stark contrast to the previous years, when cryptocurrency firms dominated the main strip in Davos, promoting their wares.

The AI fever Davos reflects the rapid rise in AI investments and interest last year, sparked by the explosion of popularity of ChatGPT, the AI chatbot developed by OpenAI, and launched at the end of 2022.

AI fever Davos: The race for AI leadership

Global tech companies are competing to establish dominance in AI and they are probably expecting that their bold declarations on the Davos Promenade will demonstrate their expertise in the field.

U.S. semiconductor companies Intel and Salesforce, among others, displayed AI slogans on their properties. Additionally, there was the “AI House”, an events venue organized by various companies, including Swiss telecommunications firm Swisscom.

In recent years, AI has taken over the Promenade more than crypto companies, marking a shift from previous trends.

The AI fever Davos makes sense.

In the third quarter, AI and machine learning startups received significantly more investment compared to Web3 and decentralized finance companies. According to PitchBook’s Emerging Tech Indicator, these startups attracted around $600 million in funding, while the latter received just over $100 million.

In 2023, Nvidia, known for its AI advancements, experienced a remarkable 239% surge in its stock. The enthusiasm surrounding AI continues to thrive without any signs of diminishing.

AI fever Davos

AI fever Davos: The crypto industry’s reaction

The crypto industry appears to be accepting the change at Davos. Dante Disparte, the chief strategy officer for Circle, which issues the widely used stablecoin USDC, has been attending Davos for many years. Disparte explains that the blockchain and crypto industry had to focus on explaining the technology rather than just showcasing the outcomes.

Nowadays, there are only a handful of crypto houses on the Promenade. All of them have been replaced by AI houses, which is a positive development,” Disparte mentioned. “This indicates that crypto technology is gradually becoming a less prominent feature.”

Disparte, who has collaborated extensively with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass stablecoin legislation, believes that the remaining companies and players will come together with traditional banking, finance, and payments.

“It’s not dissimilar to the way the Internet had to go through its dotcom bubble phase to hand over the development of the Internet to more durable, trusting, and safe hands,” Disparte said.

“There’s a new technology kid on the block, which means that I get to become a vintage player. And I don’t have to explain the tech so much so that’s encouraging,” he added.

There were still some crypto firms at the event. Circle had a strong presence on the Promenade. The Global Blockchain Business Council, a Swiss non-profit industry body, also had a space for events. CasperLabs, a blockchain firm that has been attending for a few years, had a large area as well. However, the overall atmosphere was quieter, even though the crypto industry and investors seemed to have a better year in 2023 compared to 2022. Bitcoin experienced a significant rally of over 150% in 2023.

There is a belief in the industry that crypto companies no longer need to prove themselves. The recent approval of a bitcoin ETF by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is seen by some as a defining moment that solidifies crypto’s status as a legitimate asset class.