Sunday, November 20, 2016

Silicon Valley makes nice with Trump

Silicon Valley wants to work with Donald Trump.
The two sides battled during the campaign, with prominent tech leaders backing Hillary Clinton and Trump struggling to raise money from the industry.
“Trump would destroy much of what is great about America,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote during the campaign.
Trump took his own shots at the industry, floating a boycott of Apple for refusing to crack its encryption for the FBI and accusing Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos of using his paper as a political weapon against him.

Now with Trump's victory, many tech leaders in Silicon Valley are extending an olive branch.
"I for one give him my most open mind and wish him great success in his service to the country," Bezos tweeted, two days after the election.
In August, prominent venture capitalist Chris Sacca knocked “Trump's erratic behavior, repeatedly demonstrated ignorance of economics, and reckless statements." Sacca now says he's willing to give Trump a chance.
“We in the tech community are open to helping President Elect Trump in any way he needs to help those Americans who need it most,” Sacca wrote in an email to The Hill. “We are hopeful he will immediately reach out to the tech and startup sectors and start building relationships so we can all work together.”
Safra Catz, the co-CEO of Oracle, also met with Trump on Thursday and there is speculation she could be tapped for a cabinet post.
Tech leaders have been quick to highlight areas where they hope to work with the president-elect.
On Monday, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty wrote an open letter congratulating Trump and offering policy ideas.
In her letter, Rometty highlighted creating a "national corps of skilled workers," and using technology to improve infrastructure and make government more efficient.
She also raised two big issues: healthcare and taxes.
Rometty noted that IBM operates one of the nation's largest employer-sponsored health plans and vowed to work with Congress and the new administration on lowering health costs. And she offered support for Trump's calls to reform the tax system.
Efforts to mend fences between the new administration and Silicon Valley could also get a boost from Peter Thiel, Trump's highest profile-supporter from Silicon Valley, and a member of the transition team.
Thiel donated millions to Trump's campaign and spoke at the Republican National Convention, and crucially has a foot in both camps. The billionaire venture capitalist sits on Facebook's board of directors and the company defended his role there when critics called for his ouster.
But despite Silicon Valley's outreach, there are still many questions and potential roadblocks ahead.
Trump has not yet filled many of the key tech policy posts in his administration. And some of the names that will be in the Trump cabinet are worrying Silicon Valley.
Stephen Bannon, who will be Trump's senior adviser in the White House, suggested in an interview with Trump in November that Silicon Valley had too many Asian CEOs.
For attorney general, Trump on Friday tapped Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who has a record that's often clashed with tech's interests.
The Alabama senator sided with the FBI when they asked Apple to unlock an encrypted phone used by the San Bernardino shooters. He also opposed the USA Freedom Act that curbed many of the NSA surveillance practices. Sessions has also slammed Facebook CEO's Mark Zuckerberg's push for immigration reform.
Many in Silicon Valley say they are still unsure what to expect from a Trump administration.
During the campaign, Trump made his views on immigration and encryption clear. But since the election, Trump has had few meetings with Silicon Valley execs and offered little insight into what policies he will actually push.
“Trump hasn't said what his position is on tech issues, but if I had to guess he will be for more innovation, less regulation and more spying on citizens,” said major tech entrepreneur Jason Calacanis.
“Of course, maybe Trump will change his mind... two or three times in four years. No one knows... he can't even remember his past positions,” he added.
Many in Silicon Valley are also not yet ready to turn the page. Venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar has kept up his criticisms of Trump, calling for California to secede after the election.
One major Trump donor in Silicon Valley who has known the president-elect for years, though, is optimistic. The donor said there is a different Trump, away from the campaign trail, who could work with tech.
That donor believes Trump will likely change his views on H-1B visas, which are for skilled workers, and highly favored in Silicon Valley.
“He wants an immigration policy that makes sense for America,” the donor said. “He gets the H-1B thing. He will not compromise safety but he wants to make America more innovative.”
During the campaign Trump flipped his position on H-1B visas at times, pledging to reduce their use at times, while in other moments noting its benefits.
“We need highly-skilled people in this country,” Mr. Trump said during a Republican debate in October 2015. “If we can’t do it, we will get them in.”
For now, Silicon Valley is taking a hopeful approach that Trump will respond to their overtures and find common ground, even as they acknowledge the tensions and uncertainty.
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