The President of Silicon Valley

Among tech leaders, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is a popular pick for a hypothetical president of Silicon Valley. Rashid Umar Abbasi / Reuters / Zak Bickel / The Atlantic

Hearing from the leaders of the tech world is always revealing, and often surprising. In our second annual Silicon Valley Insiders Poll, a panel of 101 executives, innovators, and thinkers weigh in on some of the biggest technological, political, and cultural questions of the moment.

It wasn’t so long ago that Silicon Valley was buzzing about the not-even-joking idea that it might secede from the rest of the technologically daft country, the “Microsoft of nations,” as the Stanford lecturer Balaji Srinivasan put it.

When you ask tech leaders who they’d elect president of the Valley, a fairly predictable roster of candidates emerges. In our poll, the Tesla CEO Elon Musk was the favorite, with about a dozen votes. People cited Musk’s leadership style, financial prowess, and long-range thinking as appealing. (Musk also got two votes for banishment from Silicon Valley, including one from a person who said he should be elected president. Go figure. )

Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, got the next-most endorsements, with 10 mentions. “The obvious but genuine candidate would be Sheryl Sandberg,” said Alastair Mitchell, president and co-founder of Huddle. After that: the software engineer Marc Andreessen (seven votes) and Facebook's founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg (four votes) got the most love.

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From there, it was a bit of a free-for-all. LinkedIn’s founder, Reid Hoffman, got a couple of mentions. “Reid Hoffman. A proven leader and entrepreneur, and no one is more thoughtful, grounded, and caring about the world around him,” said Marco Zappacosta, the co-founder and CEO of Thumbtack.

A few people rejected the premise entirely. (“God no,” was all that Mikkel Svane, the CEO of Zendesk, Inc., wrote.)

“To be honest, I don’t think tech leaders make for good presidents,” wrote Jim Yu, the co-founder and CEO of BrightEdge. “Their main objective is to ‘disrupt’ on an international level—when you mix that with political clout, you have a recipe for world domination.”

Speaking of world domination, a few of those polled mentioned the most valuable company of them all: Apple. Its CEO, Tim Cook, earned two votes. Perhaps not surprisingly, Cook’s predecessor got a mention, too.

If Silicon Valley were to elect its own president, who would it be? “It already has,” said Marty Beard, the chief operating officer of BlackBerry. “Steve Jobs. His life and legacy will continue to dominate the valley, and should.”