The technology industry always has its eyes on the future, but few foresaw the scene that played out on Wednesday afternoon in Trump Tower.
One by one, the leaders of the world’s most elite and successful technology companies trooped up to the 25th floor to meet President-elect Donald J. Trump, who had criticized them and who they, in turn, had criticized. The executives did not acknowledge or speak to the press on the way in.
First everyone went around the room and introduced themselves — Jeff Bezos, of Amazon; Elon Musk, of Tesla; Tim Cook, of Apple; Sheryl Sandberg, of Facebook; Larry Page of Alphabet, Google’s parent company; Satya Nadella, of Microsoft, and other tech leaders. Mr. Trump was seated next to Peter Thiel, the tech investor who is a member of the president-elect’s transition team. Three of Mr. Trump’s children also attended.
The president-elect greeted the executives effusively after they were seated around a long rectangular conference table.
“This is a truly amazing group of people,” Mr. Trump said. “I won’t tell you the hundreds of calls we’ve had asking to come to this meeting.” Everyone laughed.
“I’m here to help you folks do well,” Mr. Trump said, adding somewhat cryptically: “And you’re doing well right now and I’m very honored by the bounce. They’re all talking about the bounce. So right now everybody in this room has to like me — at least a little bit — but we’re going to try and have that bounce continue.”
Shortly after that, the press was ushered out of the room. It wasn’t immediately clear what unfolded after that.
The technology world had been in turmoil as the meeting drew near. Some argued the chief executives should boycott the event to show their disdain for Mr. Trump’s values. Others maintained they should go and forthrightly make their values clear. And still others thought they should attend and make their accommodations with the new reality.
“There is a wide spectrum of feeling in the Valley,” said Aaron Levie, chief executive of the cloud storage company Box.
Complicating the debate was the fact that the most fervently anti-Trump elements in Silicon Valley seem to be the start-ups and venture capitalists, few of which were invited to the meeting.
In the days and hours before the meeting, various factions made their positions clear. A group of engineers and other tech workers issued a statement asserting they would refuse to participate in the creation of databases that could be used by the government to target people based on their race, religion or national origin.
The proclamation immediately drew more than 500 signatories, including employees at Google, Apple and Microsoft. During the campaign, Mr. Trump did not rule out the idea of a database of Muslims.
Another group of entrepreneurs assembled virtually this week with the same goal of preventing any erosion of civil liberties. They also accepted “a responsibility to partner with communities where the effects of rapidly changing technologies have hurt our fellow Americans.” Among those signing were Aileen Lee, a venture capitalist; Dave McClure, of the 500 Start-Ups incubator; and Lenny Mendonca, an angel investor.
Mr. Levie, of Box, a Hillary Clinton supporter who this week joined the executive council of the bipartisan policy group TechNet, believes in engagement with the new administration. “We have to face reality that this is the next four years, and the best way to make sure our values are upheld is actually push on them,” he said.
Other tech chief executives were also taking the same route of working with the new administration. Hours before Mr. Trump’s meeting with tech leaders, the president-elect announced that Mr. Musk and Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive, would be among those joining his Strategic and Policy Forum, which is already stacked with businesspeople from finance and other industries. Ginni Rometty, the chief executive of IBM, had previously joined the forum.
While few in tech publicly supported Mr. Trump, his election is prodding the industry to realize it was isolating itself. For all of tech’s success in defining the first years of the 21st century, there were too many people who felt left behind.
“There is a growing divide between those who get to participate in our growth and those stuck in legacy industries,” said Mr. Levie. “Bridging that gap will require better partnership and better collaborations.”