Grief. Despair. Anger. Disbelief. Determination. And a little bit of hope.
Those were some of the emotions expressed by leaders in the technology industry after real estate mogul Donald Trump pulled off one of the most stunning victories in U.S. political history, elected as the 45th president. For the most part, the tech industry vocally opposed Trump’s campaign, which lacked substantive policies and, at times, included direct attacks on science. In July, dozens of tech leaders signed a letter saying that a Trump presidency would be a “disaster for innovation.”
In tech centers such as Seattle and Silicon Valley late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, many tech leaders were left scratching their heads — kind of like the feeling Seahawks fans felt in the 2015 Super Bowl when Marshawn Lynch didn’t get the ball.
Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi — the Iranian-born tech exec who last month told attendees of the GeekWire Summit that a Trump presidency would negatively impact the travel business and the world — said the election results show that those in the tech industry are “disconnected with our nation.”
As tech leaders we have to admit that we are hugely disconnected with our nation. I don't like it but have to recognize this issue.
— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) November 9, 2016
Others such as RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser, the longtime Democratic supporter who recently launched a Web site to expose what he called dangerous links between Vladimir Putin and Trump, offered a detailed 5-point explanation in a Facebook post titled “what just happened.” The 5-point explanation for Clinton’s loss included points such as the “overhang from the great recession;” a “toxic cocktail of xenophobia, sexism, and racism on top of economic insecurity;” and “interference by Russia.”
Am trying to make sense of the most disastrous night in American Political History in my adult lifetime. While the situation remains murky and even scary, I find it useful and weirdly cathartic to start to sift through the smoldering rubble. I identify 5 core reasons for Hillary’s stunning loss and the terrible decision by the American people, albeit by a very narrow margin, to elect Donald Trump President.
Some tech leaders — including Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, a Trump critic, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates — were quiet on Twitter.
Others were trying to strike a positive tone, and use the election to find strength in moving forward, such as these remarks from Madrona Venture Group’s Julie Sandler.
Hold your neighbors of every ethnicity, religion,& identity close. Defend,love,&protect them. Get some sleep,get up tomorrow,& keep fighting
— Julie Sandler (@juliesandler) November 9, 2016
Longtime angel investor Heather Redman is putting her faith in the tech industry to push progress forward. Here’s the call to action she shared with GeekWire in an email:
I’m a pretty traditional patriot and optimist, so my default is to respect the democratic process and give our new president the respect that the office deserves, but it is hard given his many statements that I think if put into policy would be disastrous for the country (e.g., global warming is hoax). And of course I remain deeply angry about his many offensive attitudes about the disabled, immigrants, religious minorities, women, etc.
For the tech community, though, I think our best course of action is full-steam ahead. Our global products, workforce and products that enhance world-wide communication and commerce are the best way to push forward on international stability, peace and opportunity for all. We do need to double-down, however, on diversity and inclusion. We need to stand up and work for immigration and immigrants, for racial, religious, gender and every other kind of diversity and we need to create pathways for all people in the world and especially the US to get the education that allows them to participate in our industry. That’s what meritocracy means and that is the bedrock of innovation. For the sake of our businesses and future generations, we need to lead on these issues always, but especially if the federal government is actively pushing in the opposite direction. This is an opportunity for us to truly lead. I hope we take it.
Moz CEO Sarah Bird also was looking forward:
— Sarah Bird (@SarahBird) November 9, 2016
Former Microsoft executive and Andreessen Horowitz partner Steven Sinofsky turned to history to make sense of the presidential results.
Greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults—de Tocqueville
— ?Steven Sinofsky ॐ (@stevesi) November 9, 2016
But he also offered this career advice:
Career advice. Always strive for a job where you feel a little bit under-qualified or on the verge of failure. Um…
— ?Steven Sinofsky ॐ (@stevesi) November 9, 2016
But not everyone in the tech industry was feeling downbeat.
Former Microsoft CFO John Connors, now a partner at Bellevue venture capital firm Ignition Partners, watched the election results from a ranch in Montana where he expressed optimism for what’s ahead.
“The country has $20 trillion in debt, we have not had a single year of growth over 3 percent the last 8 years – the first time in American history this has not happened and a 15 year period of extensive growth in regulation,” Connors told GeekWire via email. “A pro growth strategy centered around tax reform and regulation rollback has a high probability of leading to much higher rates of growth. This can help improve job growth, wage growth and an ability to begin to address our debt crisis.”
And venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, one of the few in Silicon Valley to issue public support for Trump, offered a statement of support for the billionaire real estate mogul, but also spelled out the tough task in front of the president elect.
“Congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump,” Thiel said in a statement sent to Business Insider. “He has an awesomely difficult task, since it is long past time for us to face up to our country’s problems. We’re going to need all hands on deck.”
That was a different tone than remarks by Silicon Valley investor and HyperloopOne co-founder Shervin Pishevar who said he wanted to support a campaign for the state of California to split from the nation.
And, of course, you can’t end a summary of tech executive reactions on Twitter without hearing from Box CEO Aaron Levie, the Mercer Island native who had this to say about the fate of the country.
Strange that the best case scenario at this point is that Trump has been lying about his views and plans the entire time.
— Aaron Levie (@levie) November 9, 2016
Updated at 9:30 a.m. with comments from Heather Redman.