Donald Trump has racked up a lot of achievements: a noxious and omnipresent brand name, a presidency that saw an out-of-control pandemic kill hundreds of thousands of people and a record-setting two impeachment attempts. Now he’s seeking the ultimate feather in his cap, which is to become one of the nation’s leading tech founders.
His new Trump Technology and Management Group has a lot of plans, they include killing off Facebook and Twitter with right-wing “free speech” social media network Truth Social, rubbing Netflix’s nose in a slate of “anti-woke” programming, and building a tech stack to rival the likes of Amazon and Google. If the ex-president wants to get there, he’ll need to take some advice from his predecessors like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Theranos’s Elizabeth Holmes, or that guy who sold a machine that squeezed juice bags.
Here are some life lessons from the greats, because no matter how good you are, there’s always something new to learn about sleazing your way to the top.
Build buzz with transparently unrealistic promises and shameless hubris
Every burgeoning tech executive knows that in today’s attention economy, the only way to get anywhere is to issue wild promises of market disruption and subsequent domination. Whether it’s strong-arming the movie industry into submission, gouging home prices across the country, completely reinventing the entire construction supply chain, promising every cop in the country a pretext for racial profiling, or just pretending real estate is now “tech”, it doesn’t matter — go big or go home.
For example, Trump could promise that the American people are sick of left-wing tech totalitarianism and a massive silent majority is ready to flock en masse to a censorship-free alternative. Maybe he could even claim that not only will his new social network be the internet’s premiere destination for truth, but TMTG will also conquer streaming, radio, and cloud computing. If he wanted to really sell this whole thing, Trump could claim that his tech stack will create a “non-cancelable” internet.
Stuff your pockets with investor capital
Pulling off this revolutionary paradigm shift in the target market will obviously require a lot of money — huge, disgusting piles of money raised from Panglossian venture capitalists, preferably via some kind of shady funding mechanism.
Fortunately for the ex-president, there’s already the perfect thing for this: A special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), which is a shell corporation formed for the specific purpose of acquiring another company and rushing it a stock listing with minimal regulatory scrutiny. Of course, it’d be best if this Trump SPAC had a vague-at-best business plan relying mostly on artificial buzz and the promise of quick profits. Perhaps Trump could even rely on his most spineless supporters to throw their cash at TMTG stock. (Real tech-heads call these supporters the “bag holders.”)
If that doesn’t pan out, maybe some kind of cryptocurrency vehicle like an initial coin offering or non-fungible token sale?
Rush your product design
Disruptors need to move fast, which means getting products out the door before you’ve fully thought through things like whether they “work” or will result in “unintended long-term consequences.” Every corner not cut is a minute wasted, and every minute wasted is a drop of blood that won’t get (sort of) tested!
Trump could consider, for example, building his new social media site using open-source software in violation of its licensing requirements. Maybe TMTG could also be really vague as to what its policies on content moderation will look like beyond some kind of catch-all term like “family-friendly,” or maybe just contract the job out to robots. Just some helpful hints. What’s the worst that could happen, you know?
Use bullshit metrics
Everyone loves numbers that only go up and never down, which is why creative accounting is just good business sense. For example, Facebook needed publishers to pivot to video, so it dangled cooked video metrics in front of their faces. Other tricks pioneered by tech firms like Uber include only reporting financials deliberately adjusted to obscure how much money is going down the drain. For a while, Truth Social competitor Gettr inflated follower counts by adding users’ Twitter followings to the number displayed on user profiles.
We have yet to see exactly how TMTG could most effectively cook the books to claim it’s the leading social network. But in the short term, maybe Trump could just take credit for any stumbles by his competitors, like Facebook. It’s an idea!
Abuse a contract workforce
Employees are expensive and irritating. They never stop whining about things like “salary” or “benefits,” and they have this annoying tendency to unionize. Fortunately, the savvy tech CEO knows exactly how to subcontract out core functions and bust unions, ensuring they can underpay and ignore labour conditions for huge segments of their workforce.
This is to say that to become a tech magnate, Trump would ideally have a long and unquestionable history of backstabbing or stiffing virtually every single person who has ever worked for him.
Deny, deny, deny, issue a non-apology, do nothing to fix the issue, repeat
When things go wrong — and they will — that’s just the price of progress. But that doesn’t mean that you have to actually take responsibility for it. The modern tech CEO has their firm on a war footing against the press, ready to deny any and all unflattering coverage as false, exaggerated, or just mischaracterizing what’s actually going on. When the heat gets too much, bring in the crisis PR firms and memorise the phrase: “We know we have work to do.” Then (and this is the really important part) don’t do that work.
The ex-president may thus need to shift his rhetorical and management style to become completely hostile to any and all criticism.
Insulate yourself from your enemies by building a cult of personality and an army of sycophants that viciously attack perceived opponents
Nothing enhances a brand’s perception and value like cultivating an image of oneself as an almighty, irreplaceable ubermensch with unrivalled vision and a mission far grander than mere business — just ask the late Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, or a certain Saudi prince! Any tech CEO worth their salt has a keyboard army ready to go, whether it’s to harass and harangue critics, talk up their every move as a bold and game-changing endeavour, or simply rally the wagons at the mere hint someone else could do the job.
We’re, uh, sure that Mr. Trump has some thoughts on this matter.
Sit back and enjoy your inflated value
When it’s all said and done, a tech CEO gotta have hobbies. Trump clearly has to catch up: his rivals are busy owning obnoxious watercraft, killing goats, cheating on their spouses, golfing, and hanging out with Jeffrey Epstein. As far as we know, he’s only at four out of five here, so there’s room for improvement. Mr. Trump, sir, you gotta hold the captive bolt pistol this way.