Updated from 10:23 a.m. with additional information.
President Trump's chummy meeting with venture capitalists and tech executives at the White House on Thursday explored ways to promote emerging technology in the U.S., with topics ranging from drones and the next generation of wireless networks to expanding VC investment beyond Silicon Valley, Boston and New York.
The meeting is part of an effort to boost emerging technologies in the U.S. Earlier in the week, Trump and son-in-law/White House Innovation Office director Jared Kushner heard from Apple Inc. (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook, Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos, Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt about upgrading the government's IT.
While emerging technology was the official topic on Thursday, attendees' individual agendas came out in their introductory remarks.
General Electric Co. (GE) CEO Jeff Immelt thanked Trump for his team's help winning a $600 million rail deal in Egypt, while Sprint Corp. (S) CEO Marcelo Claure conveyed greetings from his boss, Softbank Corp. chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son. "Masa says hi," Claure said. "Say hello to him," Trump replied.
Son and Trump are well acquainted. Son introduced himself to Trump shortly after the election, and pledged to invest $100 billion in the U.S. and create 50,000 jobs.
Beyind niceties, Claure is eager to explore merger between Sprint and T-Mobile USA Inc. (TMUS) .
The Sprint CEO acknowledged the appeal of the merger an interview on CNBC after the conference. The companies could expect $3 billion in savings and other benefits, Claure noted, and could jointly build out 5g networks.
The Silicon Valley delegation includes AOL co-founder Steve Case, who now runs Revolution LLC; Peter Barris of New Enterprise Associates Managing, which has backed companies ranging from Salesforce.com Inc. (CRM) , BuzzFeed Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc.; and Barry Eggers, Founding Partner of Lightspeed Ventures, which has invested in Snap Inc. (SNAP) , fashion retailer Bonobos Inc. (which Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) is acquiring for $310 million), online business video site Cheddar Inc. and millennial media group Mic Network Inc.
Steve Case spoke of bringing venture capital investment outside of major tech centers to "level the playing field" in areas with less development, which is one of the goals of his firm.
Before the meeting in a blog post on Wednesday, Case acknowledged misgivings about Trump's policies on immigration and climate change, but defended meeting with with the President. "I know some people will question my decision to attend the gathering of investors at the White House, but I have long advocated for leaders of any kind to engage if given the opportunity," he wrote. "How else will we be able to influence -- to argue for or against -- policies that will determine the future of American leadership?"
The administration addressed expanding tech investment from its current bases in coastal cities, and presumably to red states that make up Trump's political base.
"When 60% plus of VC dollars are concentrated in Silicon Valley, Boston and New York, industry misses out on incredible talent and opportunities outside of those three cities while at the same time leaving much of America behind," Kratsios said ahead of the event.
GE demonstrated the pull of the big tech hubs last year. Immelt's company said it would move its headquarters from Stamford, Conn., to Boston because of the city's tech community and cluster of prominent universities.
Trump is eager to hear about the potential for drones, 5g wireless networks and the Internet of things, which Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios said will add $500 billion to U.S. gross domestic product in a briefing before Thursday's event.
In addition to Sprint's Claure, mobile telecom executives such as AT&T Inc. (T) boss Randall Stephenson, Sprint Corp. (S) CEO Marcelo Claure, Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) President John Stratton and T-Mobile USA Inc. (TMUS) Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert. attended. T-Mobile USA's outspoken CEO John Legere, who has sparred with Trump on Twitter before the election, will not attend.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that if the government and industry can "get it right" with 5g networks, the U.S. telecom industry could "lead the world for another era," in his introductory comments.
Trump complimented AT&T for doing "a really top job."