The SpaceX and Tesla CEO has critical work obligations
Yesterday, Recode broke the news of the names of the attendees at a meeting of the top tech leaders with Donald Trump that is set to take place Wednesday in New York. Invited by the President-elect’s tech whisperer Peter Thiel, sources said they would include Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Google CEO Larry Page and perhaps Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, along with other big names from Intel, Oracle, Cisco, IBM and more.
One of the luminaries I purposefully left off the list was tech’s biggest superstar, Telsa and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who has been invited and is a longtime friend of Thiel from their PayPal days. That’s because sources I talked to said he had not yet accepted.
He still has not done so, with sources in Musk’s office say that while he was glad to receive the invitation, critical work obligations might prevent him from attending. Sources left the door open that Musk would change his plans in the next few days, but that he was less likely to attend at this point.
This is obviously in contrast to a Wall Street Journal report today saying was definitely attending. But while Thiel might twist Musk’s arm before Wednesday, right now not so much.
Musk is not being shy and has said publicly that he wanted to talk to Trump, whom he has also been critical of during the campaign. And there is certainly a lot for the pair to discuss, including the future of transportation and rules around electric and self-driving cars, infrastructure to support those efforts and other topics important to Musk, such as climate issues. Also, obvi, space stuff.
(By the way, some of the other invited-but-busy execs include Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, both traveling abroad.)
The invite for the tech event came from Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus, as well as his son-in-law and chief whatever Jared Kushner and, of course, the now tech-biquitous Thiel.
Those close to the process said that Thiel — who is on the Facebook board with Sandberg — and others helping Trump reach out to the tech community had a hard time convincing them to attend, largely due to his persistent public hostility to one of the U.S. economy’s few bright and innovative arenas.
In addition, most of Silicon Valley’s leadership backed Trump rival and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and were even more supportive of outgoing President Barack Obama.
Tech companies also stand on the other side of a myriad of key issues from Trump, including immigration reform, encryption and a range of social concerns. But those involved said that tech leaders had little choice in accepting the invitation, even if they wanted to decline, opting to engage now even if they later oppose Trump.
Whether it is just going to be a media-saturated geek reality show episode (my vote) or a substantive discussion (um, no, no no — let’s recall “the cyber”, shall we?) is still to be determined. And Musk’s presence would certainly give the gathering a touch of both glamour and heft, even if unlikely, so I’m rooting for him to Ironman in.