Why Trump's Tech Summit is Going to Be Super Awkward

By Sophie Kleeman on at

This Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump will meet with — or “summon,” as it were — leaders from across the tech industry for a round-table chat. On paper, this appears to be a very sensible meeting. Silicon Valley nurtured a deliciously cosy relationship with the Obama administration, and it stands to reason that it will try that route with the Trump regime.

Except, of course, for one minor, tiny-fisted problem: Trump has consistently trash talked the tech industry.

Throughout his deranged campaign, Trump made a point of antagonising some of Silicon Valley’s biggest players, and demonstrated such a shocking lack of understanding for anything even remotely tech-related that it prompted us to question whether he had ever used a computer (he has.) Now, no one knows why Trump appears to be so averse to the geniuses over in California except Trump himself.

Yet according to various sources, the meeting will gather — or attempt to gather — some of the biggest names in tech. Recode’s Kara Swisher reported on Saturday that Apple CEO Tim Cook; Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg; Alphabet CEO Larry Page; Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella; Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins; Intel CEO Brian Krzanich; IBM CEO Ginni Rometty; and Oracle CEO Safra Catz will be there.

As for the “maybes,” Recode noted that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos “is likely to attend.” The Wall Street Journal reported last night that Tesla CEO Elon Musk will also make his way to New York this week, but Recode later reported he hadn’t yet committed. (How strange!)

On the other hand, Swisher reported that neither Uber CEO Travis Kalanick nor Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky will attend because they’re out of the country. It appears Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, and Dropbox CEO Drew Houston aren’t rocking up.

Hilariously, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey—a presumable shoe-in for an invite, given Trump’s affinity for the platform—wasn’t sure whether he was invited.

In honour of next week’s meeting, we’ve put together a brief list of his greatest tech-hating hits, many of which were lobbed at those with whom he’ll reportedly meet this week.

Back in the delightful days of 2013, Trump attacked Sandberg for her ego.

Here is where I should write something along the lines of “pot, meet kettle!” but the hypocrisy is so thick that I can’t even lift my fingers up to the keyboard.

During the primaries, he labeled Marco Rubio “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator.”

“Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator, Marco Rubio, has a bill to triple H-1Bs that would decimate women and minorities [in the tech industry],” his website proclaimed. (I don’t know who was burned harder here, Zuck or Marco.)

Last December, Donald set his sights on Jeff Bezos, accusing him of using his ownership of the Washington Post to sway coverage of... Amazon? In order to avoid paying taxes? (That accusation is exactly as nonsensical as it sounds.)

In October, Bezos chided Trump for “eroding” the country’s democratic processes, while also “joking” that he could send him to space. But he has since capitulated, and congratulated Trump after his victory, tweeting that he would “give him my most open mind.”

The very same day, Trump also suggested recruiting Bill Gates to “close up” parts of the internet.

“We’re losing a lot of people because of the Internet,” Trump said during a campaign rally. “We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that Internet up in some way.” Perhaps he can ask Satya Nadella for some tips on how to do this.

This February, it was Apple’s turn, despite Trump’s strange history of Steve Jobs fandom.

“First of all, Apple ought to give the security for that phone,” Trump said during a campaign rally in South Carolina when asked about the battle between Apple and the FBI over the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone. “What I think you ought to do is boycott Apple until such time as they give that security number.”

“How do you like that? I just thought of that,” he added.

Mark Zuckerberg not-very-subtly called out Trump’s grand plan for a wall. Trump’s campaign did not take it well.

“Self-righteousness isn’t very proactive,” Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson said on CNBC in April. “We can talk about taxes, we can talk about jobs and even immigration, but that doesn’t really put food on the table and save lives.”

“I think I’ll take Mark Zuckerberg seriously when he gives up all of his private security, moves out of his posh neighborhood, and comes to live in a modest neighborhood near a border town,” she added.

When things were going badly during the campaign, Trump found a scapegoat in “the Google poll.”

“A new post-debate poll, the Google poll, has us leading Hillary Clinton by two points nationwide, and that’s despite the fact that Google search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton,” he said at a rally in late September. “How about that.”

And, finally, just over a week before the presidential election he went on to win, Trump went after most of his targets with one classic tweet.

“Very dishonest,” indeed. Good luck, tech leaders. Let’s hope your meeting goes better than others did.