Sunday, February 1, 2009

Berkeley Does Davos: Nerd's Dinner 2009

UPDATE: New information regarding the guest list is provided at the bottom

Way off topic -- but you may not know that on the final night of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, there is a black tie dinner for all the attendees and an alternative, invitation only, dinner for about 30 Nerds hosted by Joe Schoendorf of the venture capital firm Accel. In 2007, Peter Schwartz described the evolution of the Nerd's Dinner like this:
On Saturday evening the World Economic Forum holds a blacktie gala in the Kongress Hotel and it is a real drag. Imagine over 4000 people jammed in face to face in penguin suits and gowns, with men smoking cigars, drinking bad wine, fighting to get access to tables filled with bad food, irrelevant music blaring in the background with everyone shouting at the person next to them so that they can be heard…a nightmare to be avoided. And, oh by the way, the really cool people…CEOs, heads of state and major celebrities are not in the hall. They are having elegant private dinners. Well,about fifteen years ago Paul Saffo organized a dinner for the Silicon Valley types who weren’t cool enough yet and definitely did not want to be in the hall, which came to be known as the Nerds dinner. Joe Schoendorf of Accel Partners has really become the sponsor, organizer and provider of the really great wines.

This year, the nerds that Peter includes in his description of the dinner include:
High tech wizards: Larry Page of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm,
Health care cognicenti: Frances Colllins of the Human Genome Project, Mike Gazzaniga of rain-mind science fame and Tom Insel of the NIMH
Scientists: physicist Rich Muller and astronomer Sir Martin Rees
Enviros: Frances Beinecke and Daniel Sperling.

Peter's great description of the dinner this year ends:
The evening ended with our usual contest. Last year we were asked to make predictions for this year. Question one was the price of Gold at the end of the year which Sergay Brin got closest to. The second question was the Google stock price at the end of the year. I won it with a guess of the $325 when the right answer was S330. And the prize was one of those great bottles of wine.

Tonight’s dinner was one of the best. The quality of the conversation is what Davos is about. And while it is true that a fair number came from my neighborhood in Berkeley, the range and depth of the participants could only happen at Davos.

This makes me wish for a complete guest list. Who else was there from Berkeley? Well, Rich Muller is a Professor at UC Berkeley and may live near Peter. And Dan Sperling is a Professor at UC Davis, but he lives in the Berkeley hills near Peter. In Peter's 2007 description, it sounded like Orville Schell is always at the dinner:
Orville Schell always does a brilliant and hilarious poem about the participants and there are truly hysterical moments.

and he lives even closer to Peter than Dan. We know from Peter's 2008 blog that a Berkeley person who attended the 2008 Nerd's Dinner at Davos was Alice Waters. Was she there this year? And earlier in his 2009 Nerd's Dinner post, Peter had mentioned a panel on the politics of water with Peter Gleick and Peter live near by. Was he at the dinner? Those names (Schwartz, Muller, Sperling, Schell, Waters and Gleick) would be six, or 20% of the thirty at the Nerd's Dinner, coming from Berkeley.

UPDATE: I've received an email from one of the attendees regarding my speculations about the guest list. I am told that neither Orville Schell, Alice Waters or Peter Gleick were at this year's Nerd's Dinner at Davos. The email did not provide for release any additional names of those that did attend.

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