Eileen Burbidge on Trump fallout: ‘Tech industry is too insulated’

9 Nov 2016106 Shares

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Eileen Burbidge of Passion Capital. Image: TechCrunch/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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As the news of Donald Trump’s shock ascension to US president-elect was absorbed at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Passion Capital’s Eileen Burbidge MBE said that the tech industry is too isolated from the public.

On a panel with 500 Startups’ Dave McClure and Y Combinator and Twitch founder Justin Kan, the shock was palpable.

“If you are not pissed right now, what is wrong with you?” McClure yelled from the stage.

Burbidge said that while technologies like social media played a pivotal role in the campaigns by Trump and Clinton, the tech industry had no voice and many of the social and economic problems angering voters are often laid at the feet of the tech industry.

‘People working in factories are looking at digital and what it means for their jobs and they don’t give a shit about autonomous vehicles or drones delivering books. They want to know where their kids are going to work’
– EILEEN BURBIDGE

“It is sad that we who have created the technology are too insular and isolated and didn’t appreciate the extent of the divide that existed.

“I’m as angry as Dave and how can we pretend that this is just another day if we as an industry don’t take some responsibility and admit that we are the ones who are delivering the tools.”

Burbidge is an American venture capitalist who lives in London. She is founding partner of Passion Capital and last year, was appointed the British Treasury’s “special envoy” for fintech.

The fractures of change

On many levels, analysis of the vote in the US will yield similarities in terms of the sense of fear being brought about by tech disruption. Traditional jobs are being disrupted and opportunist politicians are clouding people’s fears and sense of injustice with xenophobia.

“A post-Brexit focus group I attended in the UK found that 51pc of the population felt that innovation was moving too quickly.

“People feel fractured by change. People working in factories are looking at digital and what it may mean for their jobs and they don’t give a shit about autonomous vehicles or drones delivering books. They want to know where their kids are going to work, how they can pay for their education and healthcare.

“It is important for the tech industry to realise its civic duty, and not only make things more efficient but be civic in terms of the services for citizens and the public,” Burbidge said.

Eileen Burbidge. Image: TechCrunch/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com