Here it is again – the photo from President Obama’s dinner with tech titans last night. Featuring a sadly sick and frail Steve Jobs, a young Mark Zuckerberg on the rise, and Eric Schmidt in his last weeks as Google CEO, it is an already iconic image of an era.
Who are the people in this photo? Why are they at this table? What is their story?
Eric Schmidt is the soon-to-depart CEO Google.
Eric Schmidt joined Google as “adult supervision” 10 years ago. Later this Spring, his title will change to chairman and Google cofounder Larry Page will take over as CEO. Making public appearances like this will remain a part of Schmidt’s job description, however.
He’s a long time Obama supporter, having even stood on stage with him a few times at the White House.
Total individual political contributions since 2008: $US72,300[imgclear]
Biotech leader Art Levinson lobbied for Obama’s healthcare reforms
Art Levinson is the CEO of Genentech. Genentech is a biotech company. Right now it’s working on a drug to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s. In 2008, Genentech’s lobbying firm successfully convinced several Congressional reps to use the same phrase on the floor of the house of representatives during the health care reform debate.
It went something like: “I see this bill as an exciting opportunity to create the kind of jobs we so desperately need in this country, while at the same time improving the lives of all Americans.”
Total individual political contributions since 2008: $US250[imgclear]
Economists hang on John Chambers’s every word
John Chambers is the CEO of Cisco. Cisco, a tech infrastructure firm, is for many a bellwether for the overall health of the economy. Obama’s re-election depends on turning the unemployment around. So in many ways, his re-election depends on what Chambers says during his quarterly earnings call.
Total political contributions since 2008: $US17,200[imgclear]
John Doerr invested in Google and Amazon back when they were startups
John Doerr is a key partner at storied venture firm Kleiner Perkins, which made earlier investments in huge Valley companies like Google, Sun Microsystems, and Amazon.
KP almost missed out on the latest wave of Valley companies and is currently paying big dollars for smaller percentages of the area’s biggest hits, such as Zynga and Twitter.
KP would love for the government to legalize online gambling, so social games maker Zynga could really make some hay.
Total political contributions since 2008: $US3,000[imgclear]
Larry Ellison is the real-life Tony Stark from Iron Man
Larry Ellison is the CEO and founder of Oracle.
Oracle is another tech infrastructure firm. It’s much less interesting than Ellison himself, one of the more infamous characters out in the Valley – known for his huge boats, fiery leadership, fast cars, and friendships with many women. Yes, he is the real life inspiration for the movie version of Iron Man’s Tony Stark.
Total political contributions since 2008: $US50,000[imgclear]
Reed Hastings is the CEO of Netflix who proves that IPOs aren’t evil
Hastings is the upstart at this table. With his stock soaring on the NASDAQ over the past year, however, he’s proven that it’s not such a bad thing for a small but fast-growing tech company to IPO.
Obama is more concerned with unemployment than the performance of the markets right now, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t love for more successful Silicon Valley companies to follow Netflix’s lead and try out public markets.
Total political contributions since 2008:$44,800[imgclear]
John Hennessy runs the world’s best and most business-friendly engineering school
Hennessy is the president of Stanford.
The meal last night was about the economy and business. No engineering school in the country is so comfortable with the business community as Stanford. Professors will happily introduce brilliant students to venture capitalists – and make a buck in the process. That’s how Google got its start, for example.
Total political contributions since 2008: $US4,800[imgclear]
Carol Bartz has good timing
CEO Yahoo Carol Bartz has to be happy this dinner happened when it did. Yahoo, which has slower revenue growth and fewer users than it did a year ago, is in desperate need of a turnaround. Big Yahoo investors wonder if Bartz is the person who can lead it. She’s only got a year or so left on her contract with Yahoo’s board.
Total individual political contributions since 2008: $US5,000[imgclear]
Forget revolutions, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo wants to make a buck
So far in its 5 year history, Twitter has had a much bigger cultural impact than a business one. Credited for fomenting riots in Iran and Egypt, Twitter hopes to crack $US100 million in revenues this year.
By contrast, the company that makes CityVille and FarmVille will generate more than $US1 billion in 2011. Twitter cofounder Ev Williams stepped down as CEO in 2010 because of this slow business growth. Costolo, who sold a company to Google for $US100 million last decade, was brought in to fix the that problem.[imgclear]
Mark Zuckerberg will be a force for the next 50 years
Mark Zuckerberg is the CEO and cofounder of Facebook. A movie about him, The Social Network, is up for a bunch of Oscars. Facebook has 650 million users worldwide, and Wall Street investors put its value around $US60 billion. His company’s profit growth is magnificent, but revenues are not growing at the same rate Google’s did during its early years.
Zuckerberg is turning into a philanthropist. He promised to donate $US100 million to Newark’s schools and he’s signed Warren Buffet’s pledge to donate half of his wealth.
Facebook will IPO next year, but Mark Zuckerberg is positioned to maintain control of the company for as long as he wants. It could be 50 years or more.
Total political contributions since 2008: $US500[imgclear]
The world is not ready to lose Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs is the visionary behind Apple.
He possesses both the imagination needed to dream up products like the iPhone and the leadership skills to make sure such a product comes into existence up to his perfectionist standards.
He is very sick, and the world is not ready to lose him, so it’s very sad.[imgclear]
Steve Westly embodies the hopes and dreams of green tech’s true believers
The Westly Group is an investment firm that puts money into green tech. Green tech is a very popular concept that hasn’t totally proven out as an industry. But Obama looks great sitting next to a guy whom both environmentalists and business types love.
Total political contributions since 2008: $US106,650[imgclear]
We think this is Marissa Mayer of Google
Marissa isn’t on the official list of attendees, but she’s a famous Silicon Valley Obama supporter. Obama attended a $US30,000 per head fundraiser Mayer hosted at her Palo Alto home last October. After years of running Google’s search business – one of the biggest money making products in all of tech – Mayer is now in charge of Google’s local efforts. She’s the one who wanted to buy Groupon for $US6 billion, we’ve read.
Total political contributions since 2008: $US66,800[imgclear]
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza