A Small Tech Startup With Trump Family Ties Got A White House Seat Next to Apple and Microsoft

Jul 15, 2017

At a White House summit of mostly-giant technology companies last month, the small startup OpenGov seemed like the odd one out. One possible explanation is that the company has close financial connections to the Trump family.

According to records unearthed by the Wall Street Journal, OpenGov is funded in part by the venture capital firm Thrive Capital. Thrive is run by Joshua Kushner, brother of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser. According to the Journal, Jared Kushner himself was formerly a board member and investor at Thrive, but sold his stake to his brother earlier this year. Jared Kushner was the primary organizer of the roundtable, known as the American Technology Council and created earlier this year in an executive order signed by President Trump.

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OpenGov CEO Zachary Bookman sat on the Council alongside Apple’s Tim Cook, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, and representatives of more than a dozen other major firms with an average market value of $250 billion. OpenGov, which sells management software primarily to state and city governments, was valued most recently at $180 million, making it by far the smallest firm at the meeting.

OpenGov’s inclusion could be seen as giving it a competitive advantage by raising its profile and influence, and the invite raised eyebrows for those concerned about conflicts of interest in a White House full of businesspeople and wealthy investors. One law professor speaking to the Journal said the incident “seems like a textbook example of cronyism in action.”

Mat Lira, A staffer in Jared Kushner’s innovation office, told the Journal that inviting OpenGov to the meeting was his idea, not Kushner’s.

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