The fireworks are over. The balloons are deflated and the hot dogs and beer and blueberry pies are gone. So now that America has collectively celebrated its national birthday, let's turn our attention to the future.
It's a Presidential year here— and CMSWire was interested in hearing a sample of what technology industry professionals, from top executives and analysts to lobbyists, have to say about politics, business priorities and how the Nov. 8 election could shape the future of tech centers like Silicon Valley.
Box CEO: Never Trump
Say what you want about Box CEO Aaron Levie. But the man is not short on opinions — and rarely misses an opportunity to express them.
“I’m firmly supporting Hillary in this campaign,” Levie told CMSWire. “I think it could be a disaster if things went the other way.”
That “other way” is the election of billionaire businessman Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for President.
“Trump has been proven time and time again not only to be incredibly volatile in his remarks and his decisions,” Levie said, “but I also think he is incompetent when it comes to any form of technology policy. I’m not confident he would surround himself with the right kinds of leaders and decision makers — if for no other reason than the right kind of people wouldn’t work with him. And I think that would put America at severe risk.”
Trump campaign officials did not respond to CMSWire’s request for an interview on the candidate’s technology policy.
Levie thinks Clinton is building strategies and policies and an approach to the digital era and digital economy that will be “more thoughtful and will appreciate more of the nuances that are required in this kind of market.”
“Trump’s black and white approach to everything won’t serve America well in a world where there is a large-scale transition from an industrial economy to a digital economy,” Levie said. “You have to understand the nuances of what changes in that transition and be very thoughtful about what kind of economy we’re going to end up with and not stall or curtail potential innovation that will come in this transition.”
The Valley Loves ... ?
As election season heats up, each side is pulling for support from Silicon Valley. At this time, the Clinton campaign easily leads that race, at least according to The New York Times. But Republicans are not giving up the fight.
Trump may be fighting for love in some Silicon Valley circles but he has a friend in PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
Silicon Valley's problem with Trump may be his disinterest toward tech policies and programs — at least at the moment. Trump has not provided full transparency on his tech agenda, said Sheryl Kingstone, research director of business applications for 451 Research, a New York City-based research and advisory firm.
“Clinton will build upon policies instituted by Obama,” Kingstone told CMSWire. “I want the next President to take a stand on better access for even rural areas for high-speed internet by 2020, better incentives to provide inexpensive and effective public WiFi and clear-cut policies on the use of Internet consumer data. It looks like Clinton has the support of Silicon Valley because of this.”
Silicon Valley needs clear and bipartisan support for data privacy, security and encryption, said Alex Zukin, managing director and senior research analyst in the software sector for Piper Jaffray, a Minneapolis investment bank and asset management firm.
“With respect to the election," Zukin said, "I do have real and tangible concerns about the impact not just on the Valley but also software valuations more broadly. These events tend to introduce uncertainty and volatility and with this year’s options that has the potential to be magnified. Mostly I think the Valley is driven by optimism and whichever candidate can help drive innovation would be a positive. A fragmented and uncertain legislative climate tends to slow innovation as well as sales cycles by introducing multiple layers of complexity."
Washington Needs Help, Too
Washington also needs Silicon Valley’s support — even for matters unrelated to presidential campaigns. In January, President Obama’s national security advisors met with Silicon Valley representatives to discuss terrorists who use the web to recruit and plan attacks. Representatives from companies including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Apple and LinkedIn were invited to attend.
The Obama administration also held the nation’s 7th annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Silicon Valley last month.
The Administration announced:
- Expansion of the Small Business Administration’s Startup in a Day initiative to nearly 100 US cities and communities
- Three federal agencies will adopt new expansions of the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) entrepreneurship-training program
- More than 30 companies are joining a new, industry-led Tech Inclusion Pledge, where companies are commit to take action to make the technology workforce at each of their companies more representative of the American people
Trade Progress Needed
The advancements are a start, but there’s more work to do, some said.
Mark MacCarthy, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIAA) senior vice president for public policy, said Silicon Valley needs more support for trade. He cited the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which government officials claim will make it easier for American business owners to sell American products abroad by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes and other trade barriers across the 11 other countries in the TPP.
“We need support for trade, particularly for TPP, because it enables access to key markets in the Pacific region,” said MacCarthy, whose association claims to be the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry. “This is a strong and growing market, and is critical for growth and job creation in the US. technology industry/Silicon Valley. The Administration worked very hard to craft the agreement, and Congress needs to pass it before the end of the year. This Congress and the Administration worked together to enact TPA (Trade Promotion Authority) last year, and we’re optimistic there is still recognition of the critical value of trade.”
In an interview with CMSWire, MacCarthy also called out Washington for support in workforce development and education. The country, he said, needs a “pipeline of workers with 21st Century skills.”
“Congress recently passed bipartisan reauthorizations of both the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act, but we still need a focused reauthorization of the Perkins Career & Technical Education Act and adequate funding for these programs.”
In Silicon Valley, one analyst wants the government to allow for the repatriation of foreign profits. Multinational companies often avoid bringing foreign profits to America because of taxes, according to Citizens for Tax Justice.
“The best thing the government can do is allow companies to repatriate foreign profits,” said R Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst for Silicon Valley-based Constellation Research. “There’s $2.1 trillion out there.”
Washington can also eliminate wasteful money in lobbying, tax regulations and accounting by simplifying the tax code, said Wang, who’s in favor of a flat tax model on personal and corporate.
“Create opportunities to train the next generation with longer term education and training programs,” Wang added. “Not everyone needs to go to college but we need to train for hard skills and creative skills for the next generation of jobs. Build trade policies that ensure free markets. Why can’t Facebook or Google compete fairly in China?”
Although Washington is often “very slow” due to bureaucracy that can “stymie innovation,” Levie sees a “high degree of optimism” in Washington around fixing the way it works with Silicon Valley.
“Maybe we could be five years ahead in terms of the kind of innovation we’re seeing if we had the perfect relationship with DC,” Levie said.
“I don’t think it’s been massive inhibitor to innovation. But if we’re going to compete in a digital economy — which is where we’ll be in five to 10 years — it is going to be important DC wakes up and recognizes how different this world is and make sure it’s interacting with the digital economy in a way that’s more thoughtful and far more collaborative with new breakthroughs and new industries that are emerging.”