Donald Trump met with tech executives last week. Trump transition team member, billionaire technologist Peter Thiel, whose oversees funds with Bitcoin investments, sat to the president-elect Trump’s left. Incoming Vice President Peter Thiel was on the president-elect’s right. At one point Mr. Thiel, with money in startups like BitPay, and Mr. Trump embraced hands.
The people who run some of the most valuable companies in the US were there at the meeting, which has been dubbed the “Trump Tech Summit”, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and Larry Page from Alphabet/Google. Palantir CEO Alex Karp, the meeting’s only representative from a private company, was also present. Why? Mr. Thiel founded Palantir. (conflict of interest much?)
Mr. Thiel’s Founder’s Fund led a capital raise of $2 million into BitPay in 2013. How have some of the other tech giants interacted with Bitcoin in their past?
We’ve boiled it down...
Alphabet CEO Larry Page
Mr. Page has not commented publicly on Bitcoin, but Google has reportedly explored blockchain technology, according to Forbes’ journalist Andy Greenberg.
A Bitcoiner from Pakistan, Jarar Malik, reportedly wrote several tech company CEOs to ask if they had plans for Bitcoin adoption. He was ignored, until Google's Senior Vice President Vic Gundotra wrote back.
"We are working in the payments team to figure out how to incorporate bitcoin into our plans," wrote Google Senior VP of Ads and Commerce Sridhar Ramaswamy at one point in the email exchange that Malik forwarded to me. He promised to get back in touch "when we are a little more sure."
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk
In an interview available on YouTube, Mr. Musk, who has been appointed to Trump’s Team of Advisories, describes his feelings on Bitcoin.
I think Bitcoin is probably a good thing. I think it's primarily going to be a means of doing illegal transactions...But that's not necessarily entirely bad. You know, some things maybe shouldn't be illegal.
Mr. Musk, who said he did not own Bitcoin at the time, elaborates.
He said: "It will be useful for legal and illegal transactions. Otherwise it would have no value as a use for illegal transactions. Because you have to have a legal to illegal bridge."
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty
IBM has aggressively pursued a line of blockchain focused products.
I am not talking about bitcoin or a cybercurrency, but the [underlying] technology that allows you to have trust and efficiency in the exchange of anything. This will have a profound change in how the world works. . .The blockchain will do for transactions what the internet did for information.
IBM has aggressively pursued a line of blockchain focused products, and has grand expectations for the future of blockchain in industry. The multinational technology corporation has released reports conjecturing that in the future 65% of banks will be using blockchain technology.
Others at the table might not have had much to say about Bitcoin and its underlying technology, but their companies have investigated its relevance.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has been mute publicly on the subject, though Apple is aggressively research, developing and putting into production payment products. Others at the meeting who have not publicly shared much about their feelings on bitcoin or blockchain included Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, Oracle CEO Safra Catz, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg,
All the companies at the meeting were worth at least $150 billion, save for Elon Musk’s Tesla.
“I want to start by thanking Peter,” Mr. Trump said of the Bitcoin startup investor, “because he saw something very early, maybe before we saw it, and of course he’s known for that in a different way.”
Thiel, he said, is “a very special guy.”
A body language expert thinks Mr. Trump really likes Mr. Thiel.
“[Trump] not only grabs the palm of [Thiel’s] hand, he grabs the outside of his hand, and he pats it…he’s caressing it,” says Lillian Glass, a body language and communication expert based in Beverly Hills, California. “It shows that he really likes this guy.”
The meeting, organized by Mr. Thiel, to be sure drew criticism for its lack of diversity.
Images from Flickr and CNBC News.