People

Who's in and who's out on Trump's tech revival task force

Oracle has two seats at the table; Twitter and Netflix have none.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison

Oracle, where Trump supporter Larry Ellison is CEO, is the only company to have two representatives in the tech group.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President Trump on Tuesday night announced who will participate in his American Economic Revival Industry Groups, a veritable who's who of executives in every major industry in the U.S. who will be called upon to advise the president on how to reopen the economy. Tech got its own group, and it's telling which execs have seats at the table.

"These bipartisan groups of American leaders will work together with the White House to chart the path forward toward a future of unparalleled American prosperity," the White House statement reads.

The list of leaders can reveal some of the administration's thinking about who matters, and who might not. Here are the notable inclusions and omissions.

Present

Apple's Tim Cook: Tim Cook has maintained an unlikely and deeply beneficial friendship with President Trump, even while maintaining a public persona as a progressive tech executive who fights for LGBTQ+ rights and against the Trump administration's immigration policies. Cook, who serves on the Trump administration's Workforce Policy Advisory Board, has leveraged his close relationship with Trump to relax tough China policies in Apple's favor before. "Tim Cook calls Donald Trump directly," Trump once said.

Oracle's Safra Catz and Larry Ellison: Oracle, a close partner to the Trump administration, is the only company to have two representatives in the tech group. (Home Depot also has three representatives on the retail team.) Oracle is also the only big tech company with a leader who publicly supports Trump, and that relationship has paid dividends over the past several years. Catz served on Trump's transition team, and Ellison (who held a fundraiser for Trump in February, to the chagrin of some of his employees) has had the president's ear since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg: Though Trump has railed against the country's top social media platforms for their alleged "bias" against him, his tone has softened on Zuckerberg in recent months — especially after he hosted Zuckerberg and Facebook board member Peter Thiel at a private White House dinner in October. Trump has continually claimed, in speeches and TV hits, that Zuckerberg told him Trump is "number one on Facebook."

Amazon's Jeff Bezos: Despite Trump's well-documented personal vendetta against Bezos, Amazon is a participant in the effort — albeit as a member of the retail group, rather than sitting at the table with the other Big Four executives. Amazon's toughest critics, including Oracle, have always maintained that Amazon "isn't a tech company." "Of course Amazon is not a tech company," Ken Glueck, Oracle's top lobbyist, said in an email to Protocol on Tuesday. "Amazon is more concerned about arbitraging the price of avocados than providing secure and scalable compute capacity." Ugly fights aside, Amazon's placement in the retail group underlines how differently the coronavirus crisis has affected its business, compared with other tech companies. Amazon Web Services has been partnering with the administration on cloud-computing initiatives, but the White House is making it clear that Amazon's most crucial business is selling essential (physical) goods right now.

Sequoia's Doug Leone: Global managing partner Doug Leone is the only venture capitalist included in the financial services group. Leone has been with Sequoia for 32 years and has seen how recessions play out for startups and the tech industry before. He's also a longtime Republican supporter and Trump backer, who had previously donated over $100,000 to Trump's campaign. Unlike fellow venture capitalist Thiel, who served on Trump's transition team, Leone has been much less vocal about his support, and this is the first time he has helped the administration in any official capacity.

Mark Cuban: Billionaire investor and entrepreneur Mark Cuban made the list for owning the Dallas Mavericks, but that wasn't the only eyebrow-raising part of his inclusion. On Tuesday night, POLITICO reported that Cuban is eyeing a late-stage presidential run as an independent candidate. Cuban has gone from a Trump supporter to Trump critic over the last few years, but he seems to have mellowed recently (and clearly deleted a lot of his Trump-related tweets in the meantime). When asked what he thought of Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic so far, Cuban told POLITICO that Trump was in an "impossible position." "I'm not a fan, but no one could do it right," he said.

Elliott Management's Paul Singer: Despite Trump's love of the platform, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey once again did not make the team, but the hedge-fund manager and activist investor who led an attempt to remove him from Twitter and force change on the company did. Singer, an outspoken Republican, was anti-Trump going into the 2016 election, but has supported the president in recent years. Last year, Trump praised Singer's investment in AT&T.

U.S. chips: Taken together, execs from the big American chipmakers — IBM, Intel, Qualcomm, Advanced Micro Devices, Broadcom and Micron — are majorly represented in the tech task force. The message seems clear: American chips matter. A lot. In recent years, China has sought to close the gap with its "Made in China 2025" plan, which, along with Huawei, is seen as an imminent threat in Washington. This group of companies also supplies advanced chips for key, high-security government and military technologies.

Special mentions: The Heritage Foundation's Kay Coles James: Last year, Google announced it was launching a new AI ethics board, notching what seemed like a huge win for the army of ethicists and technologists who had been pushing the company to do so. But within a week, Google had disbanded that board amid a swell of protests against one of the AI ethics board members: Kay Coles James, the president of the right-wing think tank Heritage Foundation. More than 2,300 Googlers and more than 300 outside supporters signed onto letters protesting James, calling her "vocally anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-immigrant." James is listed as a "thought leader" involved in the White House's effort. (After all, she is a big wig in the conservative movement.)

Missing

Peter Thiel: The most notable venture capitalist to be excluded from the list is Peter Thiel, a high-profile supporter who spoke at the Republican National Convention in favor of Trump. A key member of Trump's transition team, Thiel played a role in many early political appointments as well as in shaping the administration's priorities on tech. Not only was Thiel left off, but so was Palantir, the software company he co-founded and which has previously been a part of Trump's tech workshops. While Thiel is not on the list, one of his ideals is well-represented: keeping the global lead on advanced chipmakers in U.S. control. Thiel blasted Google last year for its ties to China.

Michael Dell: The chief executive of the computer maker was one of the last tech execs standing on Trump's business advisory council in 2017 (many of whom are part of this current group), and has been vocal about how important it is to have a seat at Trump's table. Dell last year called Trump's trade war with China "not productive."

AT&T's Randall L. Stephenson: AT&T's chief executive was not included in the list of telecommunications companies on the task force, despite AT&T being the second-largest wireless carrier in the U.S. When asked why AT&T may have been left off, one AT&T executive told Protocol: "We do own CNN, so there's that." Trump has very publicly sparred with that news network.

Entertainment companies: Amid coronavirus, streaming services like Netflix have seen record levels of traffic as people spend more time at home indulging in their favorite shows, but Disney, Viacom, Netflix, WarnerMedia and other major entertainment companies have not been tapped to help aid Trump's effort. Old guard ISPs like Comcast are on the list, though, along with Liberty Media, whose chairman backed Bloomberg and trashed Trump, and Charter Communications, which was in the news in March for not allowing its employees to work remotely when coronavirus was first sending the nation into lockdown.

Fintech

Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep Reading Show less
FTA
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.
Enterprise

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep Reading Show less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.

Enterprise

Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories
Bulletins