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Big names in tech to convene next week at Code Conference

Recode conference
Source: Re/Code

Next week, Silicon Valley will be flying south to schmooze, break bread and discuss the future.

Top executives at public giants including Amazon, Cisco, Facebook, Alphabet's Google, IBM and Tesla, as well as multibillion-dollar start-ups such as Uber-competitors Didi Chuxing and Grab, are among the speakers lined up for the third annual Code Conference, run every year by Recode.

What do most of these tech biggies have in common? They are the platforms providing the infrastructure of our increasingly connected world — from cloud computing to transportation on the ground — and building the framework for the internet of everything.

The event — which gathers influencers in technology, media and business — runs from Tuesday evening through Thursday afternoon next week in Southern California (Rancho Palos Verdes, 30 miles south of Los Angeles). Other speakers include Bill and Melinda Gates, co-chairs of the The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Motor Company CEO Mark Fields and civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson.

Evan Spiegel at the 2015 Code Conference
Asa Mathat | Re/Code
Evan Spiegel at the 2015 Code Conference

But it is often what happens behind closed doors that is most interesting. Last year, talk of a bubble in private company valuations dominated much of the chatter. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel set the tone by publicly blaming the Federal Reserve and near-zero interest rates for forcing more investors into the private markets in search of growth, in turn fueling sky-high private company valuations.

Flash-forward a year, and how things have changed: Capital is not so easy to come by and most Silicon Valley insiders openly acknowledge that a correction in the private markets is underway. This year, expect the shift in valuations and lack of liquidity to be sources of discussion, particularly among the many venture capital investors on the guest list.

Spiegel is not slated for an appearance this year, but Snapchat is sure to be a hot topic. The company said in a regulatory filing Thursday that it raised $1.8 billion in a new financing round.

Read MoreSnapchat valued at more than $22B in new financing round, TechCrunch says

Sheryl Sandberg
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg will be a highlight of the main stage and will likely fend off questions around competition from Snapchat. Of course, Facebook's most recent earnings shattered Wall Street expectations, but there are some suggestions that user engagement might be slowing, thanks in part to Snapchat. Facebook is stepping up its overall presence at the conference this year — CTO Mike Schroepfer will also take the stage and will likely talk about Zuck's 10-year vision, which includes virtual reality, artificial intelligence and bots.

Read MoreHow Facebook's CTO stays ahead of the future

Twitter has had a longstanding presence at Code, and that continues this year. Last year, CEO Dick Costolo — joined onstage by the CEO of newly acquired streaming video app du jour Periscope — addressed questions about his leadership, telling Recode executive editor Kara Swisher he and his board were "totally in sync." Just two weeks later, Costolo stepped down.

This year, it's the turn of CEO Jack Dorsey — who now runs both Twitter and Square — to answer questions about how he plans to get Twitter back on track, while at the same time building Square's business and finding time to sleep.

Jack Dorsey
Paul Jeffers | Fairfax Media | Getty Images
Jack Dorsey

Last year, Google's head of business Omid Kordestani defended the company's moonshot projects, but also signaled that investors could expect more discipline going forward. Four months later, Google and its moonshots became subsidiaries of holding company Alphabet. This year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai will provide a rare inside look at what is in store for Google's money-printing machine in the basement — the company's core ad business.

Two big names, who were not at Code last year, are sure to draw a lot of attention both on and off the stage: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Anything they say is likely to make headlines. One topic that is sure to come up, particularly with Bezos, is presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Bezos has defended his company against repeated jabs from Trump, who claims Amazon is getting away with "murder" when it comes to paying taxes.

Read MoreBezos rebuts Trump's attacks: I'm 'very comfortable' with Amazon's practices

Connected and autonomous cars are likely to be a big topic of discussion at Code once again. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick will not be there, but executives from two of the company's biggest international rivals, Grab CEO Anthony Tan and Didi Chuxing president Jean Liu, will. Didi is Uber's biggest rival in China and last week announced Apple had invested $1 billion in its business.

Last year, traditional auto-makers were represented by General Motors CEO Mary Barra. This year, Ford CEO and president Mark Fields will occupy that role. There's lots to talk about with Fields. For example, Ford is working to integrate vehicles with Amazon Echo to provide voice control access between the car and home, the company announced a $182 million investment in cloud-computing start-up Pivotal in May and a new coalition with Alphabet's Google and Uber to advocate for federal action to help bring self-driving cars to market.

Read More Ford, Microsoft pour $253 million into start-up Pivotal

Enterprise giants Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty are likely to focus on key strengths, such as security, software services and big data during their onstage interviews. Both CEOs are grappling with changes in the technology industry, such as the shift to cloud computing, and are working to reposition their businesses for the future.

One tech company noticeably missing from the lineup is Apple. Last year, Apple operations SVP Jeff Williams — the man in charge of Apple Watch development — described response to the Watch as "fantastic" and addressed negative reports about poor conditions at Foxconn, its outside manufacturer in China.

Last year at the conference, exactly two months after losing a gender discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Ellen Pao told Swisher she did not regret the lawsuit, despite losing. Though the tech press has largely moved on from the discussion around gender discrimination, the issue will again be a big feature of the conference.

Activist and educator DeRay Mckesson, named one of 2015's 50 World's Greatest Leaders by Fortune magazine, will take the stage and talk about the movement to confront the systems and structures that lead to mass incarceration and police violence against minority populations.


Disclosure: NBC News group is a minority stakeholder in Recode and the companies have a content sharing partnership.