May 21, 2019

Why Silicon Valley Won't Ditch Saudi Arabia

“The grisly revelation of Jamal Khashoggi’s detention and death in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has upended the longtime elite foreign-policy consensus around the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia. But it’s not just wonks and think tankers who suddenly find themselves unable to countenance their ties with the Saudis. Silicon Valley has long looked to the vast riches of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund for investment capital, and following outcry over Khashoggi’s death, Wall Street titans, tech executives, and their media cheerleaders said they would no longer attend the ongoing Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh. Twitter announced that it was banning accounts linked to Saudi propaganda efforts, and British mogul Richard Branson declared that if confirmed, Khashoggi’s murder “would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi Government.”

But for all the hasty cancellations from the so-called “Davos in the Desert,” Silicon Valley is unlikely to totally cut the cord with Saudi Arabia. Despite the bold public statements, a number of firms reportedly sent junior-level staffers to the conference anyway — and no one has said outright that they would no longer be working with the Saudi Arabian government. Though there’s never been anything like the outrage over Khashoggi’s apparent murder, there’s too much at stake for the tech industry to forswear the Kingdom’s money piles altogether.

The relationship between the tech industry and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always made clear business sense for both parties. In the decade after the Great Recession, San Francisco Bay Area tech companies like Uber and Slack began to skyrocket in value amid exploding user growth and successive rounds of American venture capital. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s billionaire rulers, cognizant that Aramco dollars wouldn’t be flowing forever, began staking out an investment portfolio to reflect a new ambition of a greener, high-tech future for the Kingdom.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The biggest topic in British political circles on Monday wasn’t the country’s impending departure from the European Union. It was milkshakes..."

"I often disagree with Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., but I've been disturbed by the idea that he should be run out of the Republican Party just because he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses."

"The Icelandic band Hatari, whose members are quite vocal in their animosity towards Israel, held up Palestinian flags... Madonna, likewise, had two of her performers wear Israeli and Palestinian flags on their costumes."

"To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, I turn to movie critic Roger Ebert's old review of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Trust me on this one.)"

"The money is already here—and has been for years. In the midst of a housing crisis, an injection of cash into the superheated real-estate market seems likely to cause an uptick in evictions and displacement."

"Parents concerned about YouTube debate whether to let their children have their own channels; some forbid it, others send them to summer camp..."

"‘I Had Completely Lost the Knack for Staying Alive..." Warmer weather brings daffodils, rhubarb at the farmer’s market — and, for some, despair."

"With his new book, Howard Stern proves that his rightful place is among the prophets and moral visionaries, not the ‘shock jocks’"

"I’m terrified of parenting in the anti-vaxxer age: Anti-vaccine propaganda isn’t just harmful to children. It threatens to erode our entire sense of community."

"...doctors are starting to think more about specific nutrients that feed tumor cells. That is, how what we eat affects how cancers grow..."

"...it represents an impressive achievement: a victory of humankind against the chaos that pervades the universe."

"If trends continue, in 20 years the majority of the world’s Jews will be living in Israel. The United States will see a continuing decline in overall numbers, with a growing observant Jewish population..."