News of President Donald Trump's executive order limiting U.S. immigration from seven Muslim majority countries hung over TechWadi, a weekend annual technology event in San Francisco focused on entrepreneurship and investment in the Middle East over the past 10 years.
Deena Shakir, a manager at Google and an event moderator, said that in Silicon Valley, “it’s not where you come from, but what you come to build. We stand here today united with our brothers and sisters all over the world. TechWadi is going to be there to help anyway we can.“
Those remarks came on the heels of criticism by Google's chief executive Sundar Pichai late Friday of the order that limits entry for 90 days by citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya.
"It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues," Pichai wrote in a memo to employees, and quoted by Bloomberg News. "We’ve always made our view on immigration issues known publicly and will continue to do so."
He said the order affects 187 employees. It was not immediately clear if any Google employees were detained or blocked from boarding flights.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also criticized the executive order. "We should also keep our doors open to refugees and those who need help,” he said in a post. “That's who we are.”
At TechWadi, Dave McClure, co-founder of 500 Startups, an early stage venture fund and seed accelerator, said he expects Trump's executive order will affect his portfolio companies.
“It’s a complete travesty,” said McClure, who praised fellow tech leaders for speaking up. “They finally found their voice."
His comments were greeted by applause. But that view wasn’t shared by all at the event.
Ahmed El Kalla, a venture capitalist from Egypt, said he sees the administration’s move as equivalent to shooting a gun in the air to draw attention to the issue. The details of the president’s order remain to be seen, he said. And as for how the order might affect tech start-ups in the Silicon Valley region, El Kalla didn’t think there would be much change.
“Entrepreneurs will figure it out,” he said. “We always do.”