Donald Trump’s victory was a stunning and humbling loss for Silicon Valley. A few tech leaders have released public statements, but there is a lot of silence. It appears that the Valley’s ability to operate outside the reality that many Americans live in is exactly what prevented it from predicting this outcome—even if the industry powered the very infrastructure and platforms upon which the election was debated.
If anything, this election has proved that America is much more divided than most of us realized. Our inability to empathize with those who see the world differently is painfully evident.
Instead of grappling with this reality, a contingent of the tech elite caught flights to Miami on Tuesday (Nov. 8) before the polls closed to board a cruise ship. While a number of tech leaders expressed the importance of getting back to work, this group of 3,000 entrepreneurs and influencers opted to attend the invite-only Summit at Sea, put on by the Summit Series community. Summit is an exclusive network that has some 10,000 members around the world and is headquartered atop a mountain in Eden, Utah.
Only hours after Trump claimed his victory and America contended with its aftermath, the Summit at Sea attendees set sail for international waters. Their destination: the Bahamas. Their purpose: to discuss how they are going to change the world (and while completely disconnected; there’s no wifi on the boat).
Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt is on the cruise this year, along with venture capitalist and food-tech entrepreneur Kimbal Musk (Elon Musk’s brother), social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk, and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. Past Summit at Sea attendees include investor Peter Thiel, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, and Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick.
One entrepreneur tweeted out a bon voyage message and encouraged his peers to be ready to change the world by Monday:
Another expressed her excitement to escape the US:
Overwhelmingly, that was the sentiment among the group—to vote and immediately head off the grid:
The ostensible purpose of the cruise is to discuss some of the most pressing issues of our time. Quartz’s Olivia Goldhill described Summit at Sea as Davos meets Burning Man, and noted that one of the themes for this year’s cruise is “The Great Divide”: how to connect with oneself and humanity. Notably, there are activists on the boat, including Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, political commentator Baratunde Thurston (author of the book How to Be Black), and Anne-Marie Slaughter, president of the New America foundation. But many of its attendees are well-funded young entrepreneurs and leaders in tech.
For all of Summit’s good intentions, there is indisputable irony in selecting Nov. 9 as its departure date for international waters. Insularity is what brought about a referendum on the tech industry, and for a few thousand entrepreneurs, insularity was its response.