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Donald Trump took direct shots at some of the biggest tech companies during the presidential campaign. When Apple wouldn’t help the FBI unlock a phone used by a terrorist, he suggested boycotting the company.
In a Fox News interview, he lashed out against Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “The politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed,” Trump said. “He’s got a huge antitrust problem because he’s controlling so much.”
For his part, Bezos once tweeted he’d like to reserve Trump a seat on his commercial space rocket.
Besides the direct attacks on tech companies — Trump’s protectionist trade policies, threats to impose tariffs and deport millions of immigrants, and his affiliations with groups widely seen as racist all put him at odds with most tech company leaders.
“We try as much as possible to embrace and take advantage of the fact that the diverse perspectives bring better innovation, better ideas, and this campaign very much has at times been against that set of principles,” says Aaron Levie, the CEO of Box, a company that helps businesses securely share and store information.
Levie supported Hillary Clinton, and he says he will continue to work and lobby for what he believes.
“Whether that’s LGBTQ rights, whether that’s having fair immigration policies, whether that’s racial or gender equality issues,” he says, “all of these topics are incredibly pertinent and relevant to building out a technology company and those are the things that we want to ensure are protected and maintained going forward.”
Jason Johnson, the CEO of August Home, which develops technology for connected homes, was alarmed at Trump’s stance against Apple.
“To pressure those of us in technology to give away private information without, you know, proper process and proper procedures to get that information concerns me,” Johnson says. “And we will certainly push back on anything that is shoved on us.”
Yet, Johnson and others in the tech community who did not vote for Trump are looking for common ground. “I really like how he is trying to increase jobs inside the country,” says Ravi Puvvala, the CEO of Savari, a company that makes technology for driverless cars.
Puvvala is aware that driverless cars are likely to put the millions of people who drive for a living out of work. But he hopes he and others in his industry can work with the new administration to create jobs.
“If we actually change our lifestyle in terms of how to become the creators of the new technology we create a completely new workforce,” he says.
Puvvala says he actually admires Trump’s smarts as an entrepreneur. And he isn’t convinced Trump meant everything he said while he was running for office. “I think he is going to see more the practical approach of what it means to sustain the technology growth within the country,” Puvvala says.
There is one Silicon Valley voice that has President-elect Trump’s ear — Peter Thiel, an early investor in Facebook and PayPal, was a vocal Trump supporter and he will be part of Trump’s transition team.
And there may be another way to get Trump’s attention, Box CEO Levie says. “First, start by tweeting at him,” Levie says. “That appears to be an open line of communication that he’s supportive of.”
Twitter does seem to be one tech company that President-elect Trump likes. In a recent interview with 60 Minutes, he had nice words to say about it and other forms social media. Trump says it’s how he won the election and he will continue to use it.
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