When Musk Met Trump: What Really Went Down
Despite criticism of Donald Trump during a bitter campaign, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has agreed to join the President Elect’s advisory council.
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The Trump transition team announced that after a meeting with Silicon Valley heads, Elon Musk had been appointed to the policy forum along with Travis Kalanick, the chief executive of Uber. Musk was not aggressively against Trump during the election campaign, as many people were, but he did say that he thought Trump wasn’t the right man for the job:
“I feel a bit stronger that he is not the right guy. He doesn’t seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States.”
Travis Kalanick is perhaps an even more surprising announcement, given that he publicly announced he would move to China if Trump won. Hours before the meeting with Trump, both Musk and Kalanick were purportedly not altogether sure if they would even attend, although that seems to dramatically changed on Wednesday afternoon.
What went down at the meeting?
15 tech executives attended the meeting and all were given a chance to introduce themselves in the Trump Tower, New York City. Amongst the other senior figures to join the meeting were Larry Page, Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos and Sheryl Sandberg. Despite Musk’s notoriety and media attention, his companies were probably the least valuable in a room full of top brass controlling more than 3 trillion dollars of market share. This was reminiscent of the 1907 market crash when JP Morgan took the richest men in the country, locked them all in a library and demanded they save the economy.
Elon Musk introduced himself:
“Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, building rockets, and cars, and solar stuff in the US – actually really excited about expanding our manufacturing footprint in the US”
Musk spoke for a short while about the aims for his own companies’ futures, including a manned Mars mission, and played on Trump’s heartstrings by talking about how many jobs he wanted to create in the US. Whilst he didn’t go into too much detail about expansion programs, he did make sure to speak about growth, prosperity and keeping jobs in America. The other heads were all seemingly striking conciliatory tones after almost all of them had written off Trump in the run up to the election.
“Today’s tech summit included productive discussions about job creation & economic growth. We’re on track to make America first again” – Reince Priebus – Trump’s Chief Of Staff
Trump didn’t necessarily pander to Silicon Valley during the presidential campaign; he didn’t really need to as they overwhelmingly came out in favor of Hillary anyway. Now the tables have turned and though it would be unwise, Trump could easily make things difficult for some of the people in that room.
What did Trump have to say?
“We want you to keep going with that incredible innovation. There’s nobody like you in the world. There’s nobody like the people in this room. Anything we can do to help this go along, we’ll be there for you. You’ll call my people, you’ll call me. It doesn’t make any difference. We have no formal chain of command around here.”
In a way, this was a brilliant move from Trump. Whilst he might have felt uncomfortable in a room full of people richer than him, he did reach out and extend the olive branch to the very people that were openly against him just a few months ago. Conciliatory tones were reached and progress was made by all. The CEO’s got a chance to see Trump in diplomatic mode and Trump got a taste of what would drive the economic success he craves. Giving Musk, a man whose fame and notoriety for the right reasons grows daily, an advisory position is a great move. Even the environmentalists can’t be mad at this appointment.
What remains to be seen is who will benefit most. It is no secret that Elon Musk has done well in befriending Barack Obama, and gaining from the environmental grants offered by Obama. In a new age of America, where environmental issues could be put to one side in favor of expansionism and job creation, it remains to be seen if Tesla is able to survive on its own. As a Tesla fanatic, I sure hope so.