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Some prominent Silicon Valley investors lean right| GuyWhoKnowsThings


In 2021, David Sacosa prominent venture capitalist and podcast host, said former President Donald J. Trump's behavior surrounding the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol had disqualified him from being a future political candidate.

At a technology conference last week, Sacks said his view had changed.

“I have bigger disagreements with Biden than with Trump,” the investor said. Sacks said he and his podcast co-hosts were working on organizing a fundraiser for Trump, which could include an interview for his show “All In.” They also extended an invitation to President Biden, he said, but the Trump camp was more open to it.

Such public support for Trump used to be taboo in Silicon Valley, which has long been seen as a liberal bastion. But frustration with Biden, the Democrats and the state of the world has pushed some of tech's most prominent venture capitalists increasingly to the right.

Some investors, like Social Capital's Chamath Palihapitiya, have backed Democrats in the past. (He will co-host the fundraiser for Trump along with Sacks.) Others, such as Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz and Shaun Maguire of Sequoia Capital, have criticized Biden without expressing his support for Trump. Others, like Keith Rabois of Khosla Ventures, are focusing their efforts on electing Republicans to Congress.

The activity may represent more noise than formal support or personal donations for the Trump campaign. And it's not everyone. Much of Silicon Valley, including prominent donors such as investors Reid Hoffman and Vinod Khosla, remains loyal to the Democrats. Peter Thiel, the investor who endorsed Mr. Trump In the past, he has said is disillusioned with politics and plans to sit out the 2024 race.

But right-leaning tech investors are influential, have huge social media followers and a lot of money, and are becoming more politically engaged. This reflects how the startup industry has grown (increasing eightfold between 2012 and 2022 to $344 billion, according to PitchBook, which tracks startups), and that more and more of the industry's problems have become natural. policy.

“When I started, everyone was worried about tax and immigration issues,” said Bobby Franklin, who has led the National Venture Capital Association, a trade group, since 2013. “Now it's a lot more complex.”

Delian Asparouhov, an investor at Founders Fund, the investment firm founded by Thiel, recently amazed how much the political winds had changed. This month, Trump made a virtual appearance at a venture capital conference in Washington. There, he thanked attendees for “keeping their heads up” and said he looked forward to meeting them.

“Four years ago you had to apologize if you voted for him,” Asparouhov wrote in X.

Sacks, Palihapitiya and Founders Fund did not respond to a request for comment. Sequoia Capital declined to comment.

The comments and activity of the tech investor group are particularly notable given the blue background of Silicon Valley. The circle of Republican donors in the country's technology capital has long been limited to a few technology executives such as Scott McNealy, founder of Sun Microsystems; Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay; Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard; Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle; and Doug Leone, former managing partner of Sequoia Capital.

But above all, the technology industry cultivated close ties with Democrats. Al Gore, the former Democratic vice president, joined venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins in 2007. Over the next decade, tech companies like Airbnb, Google, Uber, and Apple eagerly hired former members of the Obama administration.

Mr. Thiel strong and enthusiastic support For Trump in 2016, which included a $1.25 million donation and a speech at the Republican National Convention, it was a shock. Even more surprising to some in the industry was the way that, after Trump won the election that year, the world seemed to blame technology companies for his victory. The resulting “techlash” against Facebook and others caused some industry leaders to reevaluate their political views, a trend that continued during the social and political upheaval of the pandemic.

During that time, Democrats moved further to the left and demonized successful people who made a lot of money, further alienating some tech leaders, said Bradley Tusk, a venture capital investor and political strategist who is a Democrat.

“If you keep telling someone over and over that they're evil, eventually they're not going to like it,” he said. “I see it in venture capital.”

That sentiment has hardened under President Biden. Some investors said they were frustrated that her pick for Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Lina Khan had aggressively moved to bulk acquisitions, one of the main ways venture capitalists make money. They said they were also unhappy that Biden's pick for Securities and Exchange Commission chief Gary Gensler had been hostile to cryptocurrency companies.

The startup industry has also been in a recession since 2022, with higher interest rates causing capital to flee risky bets and a dismal market for initial public offerings limiting opportunities for investors to cash in on their investments. valuable investments.

Some also said they didn't like Biden's speech. proposed in March increase taxes, including a 25 percent “billionaire tax” on certain holdings that could include startup stocks, as well as a higher tax rate on profits from successful investments.

Sacks said at last week's tech conference that he thought such taxes could end the startup industry's system of offering stock options to founders and employees. “It's a good reason for Silicon Valley to really think about who they want to vote for,” he said.

Some technology investors are also furious about how Biden has handled foreign affairs and other issues.

“It's impossible to support Biden,” said Khosla Ventures' Rabois, who added that he wasn't a Trump fan either. “I'm focused on electing a Republican Congress and Senate.”

Mr. Maguire of Sequoia Capital wrote in X in May that “Biden has gotten away with double standards throughout his career.” And he added: “We'll see what happens this time.”

Mr. Andreessen, founder of Andreessen Horowitz, a prominent Silicon Valley venture firm, saying in a recent podcast that “there are real problems with the Biden administration.” Under Trump, he said, the SEC and FTC would be headed by “very different types of people.” But a Trump presidency wouldn't necessarily be a “clean victory,” he added.

Last month, Sacks, Thiel, Elon Musk and other prominent investors attended an “anti-Biden” dinner in Hollywood, where attendees discussed fundraising and ways to oppose Democrats, a person familiar with the situation said. situation. dinner was earlier reported by Puck.

The change in attitude reflects the country's broader frustrations with both parties, said Franklin of the National Venture Capital Association. “Tech, venture capital and Silicon Valley are looking at the current situation and saying, 'I'm not happy with any of those options,'” he said. “'I can no longer count on Democrats to support technology issues, and I can no longer count on Republicans to support business issues.'”

Ben Horowitz, one of the founders of Andreessen Horowitz, he wrote in a blog post last year that the company would back any politician who supported “an optimistic technology-based future” and oppose anyone who did not. Horowitz and Andreessen have each donated more than $11 million to political causes in the past year. Most of it went to Fairshake, a political action group focused on supporting pro-cryptocurrency lawmakers.

In NovemberA group of prominent investors and startup founders signed an open letter to Mr. Biden criticizing an executive order aimed at Create safeguards around the development of artificial intelligence.. They accused him of stifling innovation.

Venture investors are also networking with lawmakers in Washington at events like the Hill & Valley conference in March, hosted by Jacob Helberg, an adviser at Palantir, a technology company co-founded by Thiel. to that eventTechnology executives and investors lobbied lawmakers against AI regulations and called for more government spending to support the development of the technology in the United States.

This month, Helberg, who is married to Rabois, donated $1 million to Trump's campaign. The donation was previously reported by The Washington Post.




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