Silicon Valley Reels From Trump Shock

PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel ran a victory lap following Tuesday’s presidential election, but many other Silicon Valley figures were stunned by the historic upset victory of real estate mogul Donald Trump against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Thiel, a billionaire conservative activist, last month made headlines by donating US$1.25 million to Trump in the midst of the furor over the candidate’s Access Hollywood comments about women.

Trump now has an “awesomely difficult task,” Thiel said in a statement released Wednesday, adding that it is long past time for us to face up to our problems.

It’s now “all hands on deck,” he said.

Thiel’s late financial support for Trump opened up a hot-button conversation in Silicon Valley circles centering on the treatment of women and the need to create diversity and a sense of inclusiveness in an industry that is dominated by young white males.

Reflection and Fight

Shervin Pishevar, chairman of Hyperloop Technologies and managing director of Sherpa Capital, announced his resignation from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, telling President Obama that he could not serve Trump’s presidency in any capacity.

In a series of tweets, Pishevar called on Americans to have a broad dialogue about racism, sexism and hate.

“We are in extremely dangerous times,” Pishevar tweeted. “Hatred emboldened by absolute power that if unchecked will shake the very firmaments of America.”

Tech Money

Despite the apparent lack of support from Silicon Valley and other major big money bundlers, Trump managed to break many of the rules governing how Republican presidential candidates typically manage to raise funds for a national election.

Hillary Clinton enjoyed vastly more financial support from Silicon Valley than did Trump, particularly if the controversial $1.25 million donation Thiel made in the last weeks of the Trump campaign is excluded.

Clinton raised about $15 million from the industry, compared to Trump’s $706,000, Crowdpac data shows. The tech sector came in fourth among major industries, behind the finance and insurance sectors, the healthcare industry, and the entertainment and media industries.

“By powering his campaign with an army of small dollar donors — more than McCain and Mitt Romney combined — Donald Trump has become the first Republican candidate to crowdfund his way to the presidency,” said Mason Harrison, spokesperson for Crowdpac.

“2016 has proven time and time again that big donors, even the ones in Silicon Valley, no longer have a monopoly on our politics,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

New Outlook

The technology industry could benefit from a Trump presidency, as he is someone who sees the world from the viewpoint of a private businessman looking for growth rather than a professional politician, said telecom analyst Jeff Kagan.

“Politicians look backward and block progress,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Business people look forward and see the innovation and growth.”

Some of the more colorful off-the-cuff remarks Trump made during the campaign will not necessarily translate into policy, Kagan suggested, as politicians often modulate once they have the ability to weigh all the facts on the table.

Trump expressed concerns about the AT&T merger with Time Warner during the campaign, when he raised questions about the concentration of market power concentrated in one entity, Kagan noted.

If Trump were serious about acting on those concerns, he would have to go back and undo recent merger deals like the Comcast and NBC, and Yahoo and Verizon, he said.

On another front, data protection remains a key concern for Americans, according to Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

“Regardless of who is in the White House,” he told the E-Commerce Times, “it is clear that privacy laws need to be updated.”

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.

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