Valley's "Come to Satan" moment with Trump is happening even faster than I feared
Well, that was fast.
Earlier this week I mapped out a worrying prediction for how some in Silicon Valley might weasel their way out of previous opposition to Donald Trump now that Trump is heading to the White House and there’s serious money and power up for grabs.
My prediction was that (Pando investor, FFS) Peter Thiel -- Trump’s financial supporter and now his tech transition leader -- would start by hiring another PayPal mafioso to join himself and David Sacks, and Founders Fund principal Trae Stephens on Team Trump.
Then, with a quorum of Valley folks having made the leap, we’d start to see more mainstream tech leaders feeling comfortable heading to dark side.
But if it turns out that Sacks really is joining Team Trump then it makes the optics far less bad for the next PayPal mafioso, or other one of Peter’s Friends… to follow suit. By that point, with Stephens too, you have a quorum….
After that, I predict we’ll see the dominos start to fall and the excuses start to pile up: Is it reeeeeeally so bad to join what now looks like a reasonably legitimate technology group inside the new White House?
Before we know it there’ll be a human centipede of Uber bros, Facebook and Google execs and other Sand Hill rogues traipsing across the White House lawn on their way to meet with Trump’s intelligence chiefs and State Department wonks
What I didn’t predict is how fast those dominoes would fall. Forget the White House lawn, Trump is still a month away from inauguration and already the human centipede is forming.
Almost immediately after I published my prediction came two reports: First, that Paypal mafioso (and current Zenefits colleague of David Sacks) Mark Woolway is joining the Trump transition team, along with former Clarium Capital MD Kevin Harrington. Second, that next Wednesday a group of tech leaders -- including representatives from Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google -- are heading to meet with Peter Thiel and others from Team Trump at Trump tower.
From the Times…
Now that the impossible has happened, tech’s day of reckoning is here — next Wednesday afternoon, to be precise. The president-elect is summoning leaders of the biggest tech companies to New York for a round-table discussion, according to a transition official who has seen the invitations.
The agenda is undisclosed and perhaps still under consideration, but it is unlikely to produce the sort of love fest that existed between President Obama and Silicon Valley. Tech culture celebrates disruption as the tool that produces a better future for all. Many of Donald J. Trump’s supporters, on the other hand, see it as pushing them down.
And so it begins. And so do the justifications. I’ve already heard Valley insiders pointing out that, really, to be fair, publicly traded tech CEOs have no choice but to come running when the President Elect calls. They have a fiduciary duty to be at the table.
Which is both true, and hogwash. With any other president elect it might be damaging to one’s company interests to snub an invitation. But when Silicon Valley companies like Facebook and Twitter are already being blamed for aiding the rise of Trump, and when Trump is publicly mooting all manner of fascist policies including mass deportations and forcing American Muslims to register with the government… well, let’s just say history tends to judge harshly companies who get into bed with leaders like that.
Add to that the fact that Trump did not win the popular vote and it’s not hard to argue that the risks of being too closely associated with President Trump might easily outweigh the advantages of a photo-op meeting with Jared Kushner and Peter Thiel. For Twitter and Facebook in particular, given their current PR nightmares over Trump’s victory and continuing social media bullying, a decision to avoid the meeting is a no brainer. As it should be for most companies.
At the very least they should make clear they’re attending to hand deliver an anti-Trump message. It’s not often I agree with Chris Sacca but I wholeheartedly echo his comments to the Times:
“If an attendee wants to maintain their integrity and preserve their company’s ability to recruit the best talent, then there is only one purpose for a trip to Trump Tower: to deliver the message that our industry will not be complicit in the systematic disgrace of our democratic institutions, the establishment of an authoritarian kleptocracy nor the oppression of citizens, including the minority of Americans who elected him,” Mr. Sacca said.
I’d love to think Silicon Valley will continue to resist Trump’s “Come to Satan” call but, then again, I’d also love to think that Mark Zuckerberg would have already removed Peter Thiel from Facebook’s board, if only for the gigantic conflict of interest he represents. Given there’s no sign of that happening, I fear Silicon Valley’s “bold moral stance” ship has already sailed.
(Side note: Funny to see Bloomberg reporting today that Mark Zuckerberg asked Facebook’s board for permission to leave the company for two years to join the government. The board refused. Apparently the only person allowed to help run Facebook and the government is Peter Thiel.)
If my prediction hold true, we’re likely to see a lot more tech moguls and companies leaping over to the dark side in the coming weeks. Too many, certainly, to report every one here without turning Pando into an all Trump, all the time, news source.
But it’s important that we do track all of them: To understand how quickly, and enthusiastically, the most powerful players in the Valley are embracing the most frightening administration in modern American history. To that end, a couple of nights ago, I threw together a site to do exactly that. It’s called, appropriately enough, Come to Satan and I’ll do my best to keep it updated with every Valley player who makes their position clear.
The site will remain active until every major player in the Valley has picked a side. Which, based on current trends, will be about two weeks. Enjoy!