Last week saw America going through a historic election, which saw Donald Trump being elected as the 45th President of the United States. Since the result, there has been a sense of shock all around the world, with a vast majority of people not being able to comprehend what really happened. But now, the dust is finally starting to settle and people are slowly starting to accept the reality. Here, we evaluate, what Donald Trump as the President of the largest economy on Earth means for the Tech and the Startup sector.
Privacy and Encryption
So, this particular issue basically has Apple right in the centre. It all dates back to when the FBI while investigating shootings in San Bernardino had asked the tech giant to weaken the encryption on its famous iPhone so as to help them in investigations. However, Apple ended up refusing FBI’s request stating that the personal privacy of its iPhone users should take precedent. While a majority of tech biggies seconded Apple’s decision, Mr Trump wasn’t impressed.
Speaking on the issue during his Campaign rally in February 2016, he said, “Boycott Apple until such time as they give that information.”
He further echoed the same views during a February 2016 interview with Bloomberg, “I would come down so hard on [Apple chief executive Tim Cook] his head would be spinning all of the way back to Silicon Valley.”
One thing is very clear, user privacy when using technology is something that will continuously rear its head during Mr Trump’s Presidential term. Further, his views on the surveillance state will also be an issue of concern. Though we haven’t heard any firm policy on it yet, but Mr Trump did talk about his intention to restore the Patriot Act, which would once again give the NSA the power to collect bulk data on American’s phone records which was earlier taken away by the Congress. Though his boycott Apple pitch might have been in the heat of the moment, but it did clear his views and attitude towards privacy and encryption.
Foreign talent in Silicon Valley
Mr Trump’s victory has cast a shadow on the future of the H1-B visa which is considered quite important in the US tech sector. American companies often bring talent from foreign land to fill their demand for skilled engineers and developers. Though the visa grants a temporary residency, but the tech companies can choose to sponsor their employees so as to make them remain in the US indefinitely.
During CNN Republican debate in March 2016, Mr Trump said, “I know the H-1B very well. And it’s something that I, frankly, use, and I shouldn’t be allowed to use it. We shouldn’t have it. Very, very bad for workers. And second of all, I think it’s very important to say, well, I’m a businessman and I have to do what I have to do. When it’s sitting there waiting for you, but it’s very bad. It’s very bad for business in terms of — and it’s very bad for our workers and it’s unfair for our workers. And we should end it.”
But since then Mr Trump seemed to have had change of mind (not heart, we’re sure). According to him, the H1-B visa is being wrongly used to bring in cheaper labour to America, rather than skilled one.
So, basically, the conclusion here is, the President-elect is okay with highly-skilled immigration, particularly when it comes to immigrants coming to study at top US colleges. Under President Trump, we could see the H1-B visa
It seems he will either alter or completely abolish the H1-B visa and try to enforce an alternative that clamps down on the abuse he presumes is being inflicted by the current system.
America’s preparations for Cyberwar
According to research firm Forrester, Mr Trump is most likely to face a cybercrisis within the first 100 days of assuming office.
So, while there have been long discussions on how the new President will handle the control of the nuclear codes, there have also been major concerns over how he is most likely to handle the massively growing cyber threat from the likes of Russia, China and several other stateless hacking groups.
Speaking on the matter during the Presidential debate in September, Mr Trump said, “It is a huge problem. I have a son – he’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers. It’s unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe, it’s hardly doable. But I will say, we are not doing the job we should be doing. But that’s true throughout our whole governmental society. We have so many things that we have to do better. And certainly cyber is one of them.”
Many deemed this statement as an opinion of a tech-illiterate grandpa who did not understand how Internet functioned.
The Republican President-elect also failed to recognise FBI’s lead in blaming Russia for hacking the Democratic National Convention – one of the several cyberattacks that played a major role in Trump winning the Presidential battle.
According to Trump’s campaign website, his administration will do an “immediate review of all US cyber defences and vulnerabilities”. He is also in the favour of developing the US’s offensive capabilities so the country could retaliate against any cyberattack.
Amazon’s Future at Stake
Jeff Bezos, the founder of e-commerce giant Amazon, shares a not so great relationship with Mr Trump. It was Bezos’ owned Washington Post that didn’t shy away from taking on Trump’s campaign out in the open. It was the very newspaper that had first published the now infamous video of Mr Trump making untasteful remarks about women and bragging about sexual assault. Mr Trumps considers Amazon as a company that is anti-competitive and is avoiding tax.
Appearing in the Sean Hannity Show on Fox News in May 2016, he mentioned, “Amazon is getting away with murder tax-wise. [Bezos is] using the Washington Post for power so that the politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed.”
It did not stop at this. In various tweets, Mr Trump had accused Mr Bezos directly of making use of the Washington Post as a way to reduce Amazon’s tax. However, it is important to note that the Washington Post isn’t part of Amazon. It is a company that Mr Bezos owns privately, so what Trump is suggesting isn’t possible logically.
Responding to Trump’s accusations on Twitter, Mr Bezos started a #SendDonaldToSpace hashtag saying that he would be very happy to fund a rocket that would take Mr Trump on a one-way trip into space.
It is important to note that on the day of the results, Amazon’s stock nosedived drastically in the anticipation of what the future holds for the company.
It has been quite some time that there have been long discussions about the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) wanting to control the internet traffic so as to provide internet fast-lane for major, data-intensive services like the Netflix. But, many consider this as against the very spirit of equality that the internet stands for.
From what can be evaluated from Trump’s campaign, Net Neutrality is something which he understand very little about, and it is something he doesn’t want to spend too much time on. It is for sure not on the list of his priorities for now.
The future of energy tech
Businesses built around renewable energy are considered as an important area of growth for the US. In fact, in order to provide the much needed push to the growth of the companies dealing with it, the past US governments had offered attractive subsidies so as to lure in the customers who could not afford renewable energy on their own.
But, according to the new President of the US, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
According to Mr Trump, coal is the area that requires the maximum support of the government as it has suffered huge losses because of the false climate change issue that made the government shift focus from coal to renewable energy. Mr Trump thinks that the whole climate change issue is a big hoax which shouldn’t get as much attention as it is getting.
During his campaign, Mr Trump had promised to “unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.” The money for it may in part come by doing away the current subsidies being offered by the government for various renewable energy efforts.
What about the Startup industry
Experts predict that the financial markets are most likely to face a lean time for sometime now. But, one needs to understand that there is no correlation whatsoever between the success of a startup and strong financial markets. Investors who understand this are most likely to act rationally and bear the rewards over the long term for their rational move.
As for the entrepreneurs, they will have to tread carefully for sometime till the picture becomes more clearer and not act irrationally. They need not to confuse the uncertain times with a lack of opportunity, but remain optimistic and rational. They also need to be aware of the macro environment they’re operating in and act accordingly.
The only thing that can be done now is to wait and watch, and see how many of his Campaign promises/sayings Mr Trump actually stands on.
[Top Image- Shutterstock]