Google, Thiel Feature in Saudi Prince's Silicon Valley TourBy
Delegation rides in Waymo driverless car, black SUVs in tow
MBS meets Google co-founders, and cloud, AI, Android chiefs
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wrapped up a whirlwind tour of technology titans on Friday, part of a three-week U.S. visit focused on economic opportunities to diversify the oil-rich nation.
The Saudi delegation visited several Silicon Valley corporate campuses, including Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. But two industry players stood out on the schedule: Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist who advises President Donald Trump.
In addition to Facebook, where Thiel sits on the board, the Saudi delegation visited data-analysis startup Palantir Technologies Inc. and a trio of investment firms created by Thiel: Clarium Capital, Valar Ventures and Founders Fund. Thiel is chairman and co-founder of Palantir.
"Discussions concentrated on creating an attractive environment for emerging companies with innovative products," Saudi Arabia’s embassy said in a statement. A representative for Thiel didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Thiel has kept a low public profile since his unorthodox support for Trump’s candidacy. Yet the president invited him to dine at the White House earlier this week, Bloomberg News reported. Thiel brought Safra Catz, head of Oracle Corp., a reliable Google foe.
Prince Mohammed, known as MBS, also visited Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, where he met founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin as well as Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai, according to the Saudi embassy.
A photo from Thursday shows the Crown Prince with the Google leaders and other executives including Diane Greene, CEO of the cloud business; Jeff Dean, head of artificial intelligence; policy chief Leslie Miller and Hiroshi Lockheimer, who runs Android. (Page, Alphabet’s CEO, was absent from official press photos.) During the trip, the Saudis signed a cloud-computing contract with Google, but financial terms were not disclosed. Google confirmed the meetings but offered no further comment.
The Saudi delegation checked out another part of Alphabet: its driverless car business Waymo. A Chrysler Pacifica self-driving minivan from Waymo led a motorcade of hulking, black SUVs in Mountain View on Thursday, according to images viewed by Bloomberg. Waymo often gives visiting officials rides in its autonomous vehicles. A Waymo spokesman declined to comment.
— With assistance by Margaret Talev, and Sarah McBride