This was always going to happen, from the moment Donald Trump won his shocking victory last November.
Even if leaders of U.S. tech giants generally believe that Trump is a loathsome individual who offends their professional and personal ethos on many levels, there is no getting around the fact that the U.S. federal government represents a giant piggy bank. And as the chiefs of publicly traded companies, they simply can not ignore the reality that modernizing federal systems would be a windfall.
And so there they were yesterday, gathered around a table listening to Trump talk about how great he is and brag about all his accomplishments so early in his term. They did this knowing full well that if Apple, for example, built an iPhone that included a teleportation feature that let you beam yourself anywhere on the planet, Trump would likely claim credit for it.
They sat there knowing that while tech has not always been focused on equality and there are downsides to disruption, the industry still offers a better hope for economic prosperity than opening a few crumbling mines in rural West Virginia. And they sat there even though Trump had spent months demonizing some of them for outsourcing manufacturing and had threatened their workforce by clamping down on immigrants.
They each gamely tried to squeeze in their pet issues. Coding in schools. Pro-immigration policies. Worker training. The environment. Cybersecurity. Yada, yada, yada.
But mostly, they were there to protect their interests. And their interests are threatened by Trump. VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger noted that his company’s software runs 70 percent of government systems. Yet, earlier this year, Forrester projected spending on tech by the U.S. government would fall under Trump, as he seeks draconian budget cuts.
So these 18 tech leaders made the pilgrimage:
Ajay Banga, CEO of MasterCard
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
Zachary Bookman, CEO of OpenGov
Safra Catz, co-chief executive of Oracle
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
John Doerr, chairman of Kleiner Perkins
Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware
Alex Karp, CEO of Palantir
Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel
Tom Leighton, CEO of Akamai
Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP
Steven Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft
Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe
Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet
Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture
Peter Thiel, partner at Founders Fund
Naturally, Microsoft and Amazon were there to pitch cloud services, which they happen to sell. Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr highlighted one of his portfolio companies, Nuna, which just happens to work in data, which he told Trump represents a big opportunity for the government. Hint, hint.
In return, Trump promised immigration reform so “you can get the people you want in your companies.” And the tantalizing prospect of tax reform (a.k.a., massive corporate tax cuts and maybe a repatriation holiday) is certainly hard for tech leaders to ignore.
Of course, many partisans in Silicon Valley may have hoped these folks would boycott Trump, refuse to participate, and make their resistance known. But this is business now. No matter how outspoken or political some of these tech leaders have become, the bottom line is still the ultimate master.
And even with Trump’s hand on the federal checkbook, they are all eager to make a deal.
Watch the remarks for yourself: