President Donald Trump will gather the leaders of major drone manufacturers, wireless companies and venture capital firms at the White House on Thursday to discuss how the U.S. government can help advance emerging technologies.
Much as Trump consulted with leading internet companies earlier this week on ways to modernize the U.S. government, the White House will next ask the brains behind some of Silicon Valley’s most cutting-edge devices and services for advice on what regulators can do to catalyze more investment in their industries.
One of the sessions will focus on drones, and among the executives in attendance will be Michael Chasen, the leader of PrecisionHawk; Ben Marcus, the CEO of AirMap; and Jaz Banga, the chief executive of Airspace Inc. They’ll huddle with White House leaders — as well as regulators at the Federal Aviation Administration — on the sort of rules that govern how and where unmanned aerial craft can operate, said Michael Kratsios, the president’s deputy chief technology officer, who previewed the meeting on a Wednesday call with reporters.
Absent from this White House summit, however, will be the world’s largest consumer drone manufacturer: DJI, a Chinese company that has 50 percent of the North American consumer drone market. A spokesperson for DJI declined to say if the company had been invited.
The Trump administration also plans to explore web-connected fitness trackers, refrigerators, thermostats and other devices that comprise the vast universe called the “Internet of Things” — as well as next-generation wireless technologies, like 5G, that help power those and other tools.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will join that brainstorming session with the likes of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure and Verizon President John Stratton, and they’ll explore the impact of federal regulation and the “implications of an increasingly connected world,” Kratsios said.
And the White House wants to put a special spotlight on investment — from venture capital and startup accelerators to the ways founders get into business in the first place. There, the Trump administration will speak with top investors from firms including New Enterprise Associates, Lightspeed Ventures and 500 Startups.
A number of firms that had been invited to the session — including Sequoia Capital and Accel — are not slated to attend. Still, the White House wants to hear from the industry about market segments they are “hesitant to invest [in] due to regulatory uncertainty,” Kratsios said.
The meeting itself is part of the president’s so-called “tech week,” as first reported by Recode, a five-day effort to rethink the way the U.S. government uses technology and the policy challenges facing tech businesses.
On Monday, Trump huddled with Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and other major tech executives, specifically to explore ways to digitize and improve existing government services. Publicly, the meeting drew praise from the tech CEOs in attendance — and privately, it offered them an opportunity to lobby the White House on a range of issues, including rules that might make it easier for them to sell their products and services to the feds.
A day later, the leading lobbying groups for Apple, Facebook, Google and other tech giants joined the Trump administration to talk tax reform, a major policy issue for Silicon Valley, which has urged Washington for years to lower corporate tax bills — particularly by cutting the rate that applies to revenue earned abroad and then brought back to the U.S.
And on Wednesday, the focus shifted to agriculture, as Trump traveled to Iowa and promised to improve high-speed internet access in the country’s hardest-to-reach rural areas. Despite his call to action, however, the president and his staff have offered no details as to exactly how they intend to accomplish that.
If anything, Trump’s Thursday event with drone makers, wireless giants and investors should offer those industries an opportunity to lobby their federal overseers for friendlier regulation.
Already, the stakes are high for drone makers, as Congress is currently writing legislation to reauthorize the work of the FAA — a regular process on Capitol Hill that could also result in new restrictions on where consumers and companies can operate their drones.
And there’s much for the wireless industry to watch at the FCC, where Pai has embarked on a major campaign to deregulate the telecom sector — in ways that might benefit AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, all of which have been invited.
Trump’s latest “tech week” summit, however, comes at a time when the White House tech hub leading the effort — the Office of Science and Technology Policy — still has no full-time, permanent director. Nor has the president nominated a top science adviser or a chief technology officer. Aides this week declined to offer a timeline as to when Trump might name those key officials.
Here is the full list of industry attendees, as provided by the White House:
Darius Adamczyk, CEO, Honeywell
Jaz Banga, CEO, Airspace Inc.
Peter Barris, Managing General Partner, New Enterprise Associates
Steve Case, CEO, Revolution LLC
Michael Chasen, CEO, PrecisionHawk
Marcelo Claure, CEO, Sprint
Brandon Declet, CEO, Measure
Nick Efstratis, Managing Director, EPIC Ventures
Barry Eggers, Founding Partner, Lightspeed Ventures
Ben Fowke, CEO, Xcel Energy
Jan Garfinkle, Managing Director, Arboretum Ventures
Dyan Gibbens, CEO, Trumbull Unmanned
Nelson Griggs, Executive Vice President, Nasdaq
Jeff Immelt, CEO, GE
Tim Junio, CEO, Qadium
Ben Marcus, CEO, AirMap
George Mathew, CEO, Kespry
Glen Post, CEO, CenturyLink
Mike Sievert, COO, T-Mobile
Jim Smith, General Partner, Mohr Davidow Ventures
Randall Stephenson, CEO, AT&T
John Stratton, President, Verizon
Jennifer Tegan, Partner, Cayuga
Aman Verjee, COO, 500 Startups
Additional reporting by April Glaser.