Silicon Valley denounces Trump: "a disaster for innovation"

Steven Loeb · July 15, 2016 · Short URL:

Aaron Levie, Vinod Khosla and Alexis Ohanian are among those who signed an open letter against Trump

(Updated with comment from Jed Katz and Alexis Ohanion)

It's really no secret that most tech leaders have no love for Donald Trump, and the feeling seems to be mutual.

There have been shots taken by both sides, some it pretty explicit, like Keith Rabois calling Trump an "opportunistic liar" and Michael Moritz calling  him a "loser" and "hustler." More often, though, it seems to have come as more indirect shots, along the lines of comments about Mark Zuckerberg about "fearful voices calling for building walls," without ever actually saying "Trump."

Not anymore, as over 100 technology leaders, including some of the biggest names in the industry, have made their feelings explicit, signing an open letter on Thursday stating that they unequivocally do not want Trump to be President of the United States. 

"We believe in an inclusive country that fosters opportunity, creativity and a level playing field. Donald Trump does not. He campaigns on anger, bigotry, fear of new ideas and new people, and a fundamental belief that America is weak and in decline," the letter says.

"We have listened to Donald Trump over the past year and we have concluded: Trump would be a disaster for innovation. His vision stands against the open exchange of ideas, free movement of people, and productive engagement with the outside world that is critical to our economy — and that provide the foundation for innovation and growth."

The letter went after Trump's well-known anti-immigration stance, including his calls for mass deportations, citing that "40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children" (when it comes to unicorn companies the number is over 50 percent).

It also called out his "poor judgment and ignorance about how technology works," when he called for parts of the Internet to be shut down, as well as "reckless disregard for our legal and political institutions."

"He risks distorting markets, reducing exports, and slowing job creation," it stated.

Some of the tech leader who signed included Stewart Butterfield, Troy Carter, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Barry Diller, David Hornik, David Karp, Jed Katz, Vinod Khosla, Aileen Lee, Aaron Levie, Dave Morin, Alexis Ohanian, Mark Pincus, Dave Samuel, Robert Scoble, Jeremy Stoppelman, Jimmy Wales, Hunter Walk, Ev Williams and Steve Wozniak.

I reached out to some of the people who signed the letter and this is what they had to say:

"It was a collaborative effort that started in a Google Doc with a handful of people. Then we started inviting diverse group of industry colleagues and momentum took off," Walk told me. "For me, this wasn't meant as a letter that would convince Trump supporters to abandon their candidate. Instead, it's a way for a group of us to speak with a single voice specifically around innovation. And create room for others in the tech sector to be public with their concerns."

"It's crystal clear that Trump doesn't respect the openness and diversity that has made innovation in America so far reaching and successful.  The letter makes it just as clear how the technology sector feels about him," said Katz.

"I've long advocated for a smarter immigration policy in the US to make sure we continue to attract and retain the world's best and brightest to continue growing as a global tech leader. Great entrepreneurs don't need to open a factory to create a billion dollar business the internet age, they just need to open a laptop — and we need them doing that here," said Ohanian.

"I'm speaking for myself, not for Reddit, Inc., which has not endorsed or denounced any candidate. In fact, our platform has always been a space for open, authentic political discussion from any campaign, and it's great when we see candidates on Reddit engaging with their people. Personally, I welcome the dialogue even when it's in total opposition to my own personal views because that's what makes America great and that's what makes Reddit great, too."

Scoble explained to me why he signed the letter in the most succinct way possible: "Donald Trump scares me like no other," he said. 

Trump vs Silicon Valley

It's no wonder that Silicon Valley, for the most part, doesn't like Trump, given that he has made numerous statements, including calling for a ban of iPhones during the fight between Apple and the FBI, that were designed to get under their skin.

It all started when Trump went after tech companies over H-1B visas, which, the pro-immigration PAC started by Zuckerberg, has been lobbying to increase. Trump accused companies in the tech ecosystem of using these visas to pay workers lower wages, and to take away jobs from qualified Americans. 

He even went so far as to call former opponent Marco Rubio, "Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator," for his support of H-1Bs. 

Since then, plenty of well-known tech personalities have taken shots at Trump, including investor Marc Andreessen, who has gotten into multiple Twitter feuds with him.

Then there's Zuckerberg, who essentially declared himself to be the anti-Trump after the candidate proposed a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States. He also implicitly called Trump out at the F8 developer conference in April, after which Facebook employees at the company actually asked him if they should try and stop Trump from becoming President. 

Not everyone in Silicon Valley dislikes Trump, of course; the man has found an ally in former PayPal CEO Peter Thiel, who is not only going to be a California delegate for Trump in the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, but will also be a speaker.

I don't think Trump is ever actually going to be President, but, if he does, at least he know he'll have one friend in Silicon Valley.

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