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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince wraps up whirlwind tour of Silicon Valley 

Technology titans Google, Thiel feature in Saudi Prince's visit

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman walks during his visit to Google in Silicon Valley. The prince wrapped up a whirlwind tour of technology titans on Friday as part of a three-week US visit. Bandar Algaloud / Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court / Handout via Reuters.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman walks during his visit to Google in Silicon Valley. The prince wrapped up a whirlwind tour of technology titans on Friday as part of a three-week US visit. Bandar Algaloud / Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court / Handout via Reuters.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wrapped up a whirlwind tour of technology titans on Friday, part of a three-week US visit focused on economic opportunities to diversify the oil-rich nation.

The Saudi delegation visited several Silicon Valley corporate campuses, including Apple and Facebook. But two industry players stood out on the schedule: Alphabet’s Google and Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist who advises President Donald Trump.

In addition to Facebook, where Mr Thiel sits on the board, the Saudi delegation visited data-analysis startup Palantir Technologies and a trio of investment firms created by Mr Thiel: Clarium Capital, Valar Ventures and Founders Fund. Mr 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 Mr Thiel didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr 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 reported. Mr Thiel brought Safra Catz, head of Oracle, a reliable Google foe.

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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, chief executive of the cloud business; Jeff Dean, head of artificial intelligence; policy chief Leslie Miller and Hiroshi Lockheimer, who runs Android.

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.

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