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HOW TECH WILL WORK WITH THE NEW ADMINISTRATION

January 17, 2017

Throughout the election, concerns about crackdown on H1-B visas, allowing many foreign employees to work for American tech companies, as well as Trump’s protectionist rhetoric, sparked fear of a Trump presidency throughout Silicon Valley, but as today’s inauguration approached, sentiment shifted to focus on the potential positive impacts President Trump will have on tech. 

In December, Trump met with the nation’s tech elite--Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Elon Musk of Tesla, Tim Cook of Apple, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt of Alphabet and Satya Nadella of Microsoft, to name a few--to discuss free trade, cybersecurity and job creation, among other topics. Missing from the discussion was representation from start-ups and VCs, few of which were included. Following the meeting, many of the executives have emphasized the importance of engagement with the incoming administration despite having supported Hillary Clinton throughout the campaign. Peter Thiel, another Silicon Valley titan and controversial Trump supporter, has expressed concern that the Trump presidency will change too little, rather than too much, in the tech industry and elsewhere.

Despite initial trepidation from the tech community towards Trump, the numbers paint a stable post-election picture: the Nasdaq continues to hit record highs in light of the election results. The conversations around tax reform and the potential for broader economic stimulus have propelled the stocks of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google--known by the acronym FANG--and others. 

In comparison to the rest of the country, polls convey more acceptance by tech industry leaders of Trump than during his time on the campaign trail. In a recent poll by Burson-Marsteller/Penn Schoen Berland, 59 percent of tech elites are optimistic that the incoming administration will boost the economy; just 42 percent of the general public were optimistic. 

Although these tech giants are learning to play nice with Trump, it will not be easy. For instance, during much of his campaign, Trump regularly criticized Amazon. However, playing well into Trump’s job creation rhetoric, the company just announced the creation of 100,000 full-time jobs in the US over the next 18 months. The Trump administration said in a statement that the president-elect was “pleased to have played a role in [the] decision made by Amazon,” but he may not have taken into account that the majority of those jobs will be filled by highly skilled technical hires.

To bridge the gap between what’s best for tech and industry progress and the campaign promises the administration has to fulfil, Trump has called upon many tech and business leaders to join his transition team as well as to serve on his Strategic and Policy Forum. Those selected will advise him on how to institute policies to fuel economic productivity and job growth. The group, chaired by Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, includes CEOs spanning multiple industries, and plans to meet the first week of February.

It’s clear that, while many technology leaders didn’t support Trump during his campaign, they have realized that Trump is in fact the president for at least the next four years. What’s more is that they’re taking the high road actively seeking ways to work with the administration to move the country forward rather than create stalemates that could hinder innovation, progress and yes job creation.

January 17, 2017

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