Silicon Valley and Donald Trump warred during the campaign but now that he’s president-elect, the top leaders of U.S. technology companies are headed to a Trump “tech summit” Wednesday.
The attendee list includes Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google’s parent company; Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg; Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella; Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos; and Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Trump called for a boycott of Apple during the presidential campaign for the company’s refusal of FBI demands to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. Trump also charged that Amazon’s Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, is “using the Washington Post for power so that the politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed.”
Silicon Valley overwhelming supported Hillary Clinton. Nearly 150 tech leaders, including Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, wrote an open letter this summer saying Trump “would be a disaster for innovation” and that he campaigned on anger, bigotry and fear.
A rare pro-Trump voice in Silicon Valley was Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder and a Facebook board member who said that Trump’s supporters take him “seriously but not literally.” Now Thiel is a member of Trump’s presidential transition team and helped organize the tech summit.
Jason Miller, communications director for the Trump transition team, made no mention of all the bad blood with Silicon Valley on Tuesday, saying that Trump has invited tech “heavy hitters.”
“The president-elect has said that we need to get back to being innovators and inventing things and making things here in America,” Miller said. “We need to make sure that we have the business climate where companies that are just starting, or people who have these ideas can get out there and have the access to capital and the tax structure that encourages and fosters such innovation.”
Miller said the goal of the summit is to “talk about innovation and how we continue to make America the place where good ideas are coming from, and the place where ingenuity happens.”
Trump met separately on Tuesday with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who Miller said “had some fantastic things to say about the president-elect on CNBC.”
Gates told CNBC that Trump has the potential to send a message about innovation and removal of regulatory barriers “in the same way President Kennedy talked about the space mission and got the country behind that.”
Gates emerged from his meeting with Trump on Tuesday with only brief remarks for reporters.
“It was a good time,” he said. “We had a good conversation about innovation, how it can help in health, education, the impact of foreign aid and energy, and a wide-ranging conversation about power of innovation.”