Over the years, I have often written about Silicon Valley’s desire for Washington to stay out of its hair. Except for lucrative defense contracts, the tech industry would prefer to work unrestrained by politics and government regulations.
That trend lasted well into the early 1990s, but when Bill Clinton was running for president, John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins and then-CEO of Cisco, John Chambers, figured that if they wanted to realize their vision of the Internet and bring technology to the masses, they would need the government’s assistance. So they, along with people like Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale, began lobbying legislatures from both sides of the aisle about the benefits of the Internet.
Since then—thanks to tech-friendly Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama—Silicon Valley innovation has helped drive the US and world economy. It also put the region on the map in ways we could not have imagined at the birth of the PC era.
But now that Donald Trump is the US President-Elect, there has been a lot of handwringing here in Silicon Valley. For one thing, almost all tech leaders opposed his candidacy, except for one, venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Part of the concern about Trump is that he is known to be vengeful and Silicon Valley has no clue how that might play into his thinking about Silicon Valley.
The other thing that concerns them is that Trump seems to not really understand tech as his predecessors did, so dealing with him will be uncharted territory. And at the moment, his only link to Silicon Valley is Thiel, who has become part of his transition team.
As an analyst who deals with the media a lot, I got many calls asking for comment on this subject. While I too am very concerned, technology and its impact on the global economy is much bigger than any president. I am convinced that even if Trump puts in place unfavorable policies, Silicon Valley is smart enough to work around these roadblocks.
There is the possibility that Apple could be one of the major beneficiaries of a Trump proposal to lower corporate taxes and allow a one-time repatriation of cash held overseas. At the moment, Apple pays the highest taxes and has the highest foreign stash of cash of any company in the world.
On the flip side, Apple could also be a big loser if Trump goes through with his threats to slap tariffs on goods produced in China and other countries. Of course, China could do the same, which would have a domino effect for any US company that wants to do business in China.
Silicon Valley-based tech leaders are not happy with Trump, although they are resolved to work with his administration when possible. I suspect they will not hold back if they don’t like any of his policies.
Although I believe Silicon Valley and the tech companies in the US are on a trajectory that no president can ultimately derail, Silicon Valley, more than ever, needs to navigate serious uncharted territory when it comes to dealing with a Trump administration and apply tact as well as tenacity if it wants to move forward. While the next four years could be rocky, when it comes to dealing with this new president, the tech execs I have talked to seemed assured that they have the skills and fortitude to manage anything that comes their way.