Bitcoin dialogue at WEF requires ‘open-mind’ — Davos 2023


The World Economic Forum (WEF) convenes in Davos annually, taking over the Swiss skiing town. The main promenade is flush with events and companies renting out properties, with an increasing presence from companies in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space.

The entrance to the WEF compound is restricted by cement barriers and security personnel, drawing an invisible line between the conference and the rest of Davos. Curiously, the last building on the fringe of the conference was branded with familiar logos, that of Polygon and the ever-recognizable Bitcoin (BTC) symbol.

Cointelegraph stumbled upon Pietro Poretti while shooting footage of the Bitcoin logo emblazoned on the Tech Lodge stand. Poretti is the director of Lugano’s Economic Development department. This Swiss city has opened up BTC and crypto payments for various municipal accounts for its residents through its Lugano Plan B project.

Bitcoin was not on the official agenda of the WEF in 2023. Crypto and blockchain featured across different workshops during the week, but these conversations focused more on Web3, the metaverse, central bank digital currencies and blockchain payment systems rather than decentralized cryptocurrency adoption.

Pietro Poretti speaks to Cointelegraph’s Gareth Jenkinson outside the World Economic Forum compound in Davos in January 2023.

2023 is the second year that Lugano’s Plan B set up shop in Davos, as it looks to meet new people, create connections and share its story driving real-world BTC adoption and use cases. The project has been operational since March 2022 and Poretti says while it is in its infancy, it’s about educating and demonstrating the utility of cryptocurrencies:

“It’s about promoting crypto payments throughout the city by the city administration. Soon in Lugano, you’ll be able to pay taxes, fines, anything you pay to the municipality.”

Lugano Plan B merchants accept payment in the native LVGA tokens, Bitcoin, Lightning Network payments and Tether (USDT). This year, sharing experience with other industries, policymakers and public officials has been a focus. Poretti says payments innovation has been approached with “small but very concrete steps” focused on providing different but complementary payment gateways.

“I think that at the end of the day if people see the benefits of having an alternative, it’s not something necessarily will replace or is going to replace.”

Lugano’s cryptocurrency payments initiative could serve as a tangible case study for the adoption of decentralized payment options worldwide, including inside the WEF. That has not yet happened, but representatives from other cities have asked Lugano for the “hows and whys” of their Plan B initiative, which Poretti describes as progress:

“We think that it’s not about duplicating the exact same approach elsewhere in the world, but maybe it’s about taking inspiration right from what we have done and and and learn something also from our experience. I think that in this respect, Lugano still is a little bit of a pioneer.”

While the likes of Ripple and Circle were prominent cryptocurrency ecosystem participants involved in WEF workshops, Poretti believes a more open-minded approach will be required for Lugano to sit at the table to outline their crypto-adoption efforts.

Related: TradFi and DeFi come together — Davos 2023

This requires many moving parts, including financial and legal services participation and political support for similar initiatives. Perhaps most importantly, Poretti believes users will drive discourse and adoption of solutions like Bitcoin:

“If your citizens are on board and they say, ‘let’s try, we are curious, we are open,’ then when we start seeing the benefits.”

Poretti believes this drives job creation, stimulates economic growth and ensures technological and digital adoption.

Bitcoin Suisse was another Swiss-based cryptocurrency industry player that Cointelegraph managed to connect with in Davos. CEO Dirk Klee highlighted the company’s role in founding Crypto Valley and its early work to drive BTC adoption in Switzerland, which has become a leader for worldwide cryptocurrency adoption in many respects.

“I would call it the world headquarters of wealth management and the early adopters, right? We’re partially crypto natives, but who grew into wealthy individuals early on.”

Klee said that Switzerland’s reputation as a well-regulated and safe place to do business has also helped the local cryptocurrency ecosystem grow over time while conceding that its an ongoing journey.

Highlighting tough market conditions over the last year, Klee suggested that the industry is at a point where trust and confidence need to be built before considering more participation in events like the WEF:

“A lot of trust has been destroyed and eroded in the last year and we want to be kind of the center point of the next stage of institutionalization, making the place more accessible, easier to use, but also safer.”

Klee also wants to see the likes of Bitcoin Suisse potentially involved in cryptocurrency workshops in future WEF conferences and described going mainstream as “the ultimate goal.“

The likes of Lugano and various Swiss regions are prime examples of the potential for cryptocurrency adoption for everyday payments. Furthermore, the presence of Plan B and Bitcoin Suisse in Davos proves that the industry is driving its own conversations with interested parties outside the walls of the World Economic Forum.