The boss of Uber, the head of the cloud at Google, the director of a prestigious incubator start-up… Since a few days, big names of Silicon Valley are taking their distances with saudi Arabia, following the disappearance of the journalist saudi Jamal Khashoggi, who, according to the Turkish authorities, was reportedly killed on 2 October during a visit to the consulate of his country in Istanbul.
This episode illustrates the close links that have developed since two years ago between high-tech companies and Riyadh. Under the leadership of the crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the kingdom is trying to get out of its oil dependency, in particular by focusing on the sector of new technologies. For Silicon Valley, it is no longer just a market to be conquered : it has also become an investor of the first order. Since 2016, saudi Arabia has injected billions of dollars in the start-up american.
“The companies who say that they are the most idealistic of the world are very happy to accept the money, the more dirty the planet to boost their growth,” says journalist Anand Giridharadas, who spoke on Sunday 14 October in the framework of a conference organized in San Francisco by Wired magazine. The day before, in a column published in the New York Times, he told to return the money of the saudi government. None of the companies concerned had wished to meet this demand.
$ 3 billion for Uber
Uber is part of these groups. In 2016, the platform of chauffeur-driven cars, has received $ 3.5 billion (3 billion euros) of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the main sovereign fund of the kingdom, which the director now sits on the board of directors of Uber. Last Thursday, Dara Khosrowshahi, who was named to the head of the company in 2017, has yet been one of the first to come out of the silence, announcing that it would not participate in the conference…