Peter Thiel surprised Silicon Valley enough when he endorsed controversial Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump at the Republican National Convention earlier this year. Valley investors and entrepreneurs — the vast majority of whom do not support Trump — are likely to be even more taken aback by the news that Thiel has chosen this point to donate $1.25 million to his campaign.
The timing is interesting to say the least. Trump is currently being eviscerated in the media after evidence has emerged about his insulting behaviour towards women was recorded by the syndicated program “Access Hollywood” and a number of accusers have even gone public.
According to sources close to the investor, Thiel is motivated by his view that feels the country ‘needs fixing’, and thinks Mr. Trump can do it.
The New York Times reported that Thiel will make his first donation in support of Mr. Trump’s election via a combination of super PAC donations and funds given directly to the campaign. No other high-profile tech investor supports Trump, with most supporting Hilary Rodham Clinton’s Democratic candidacy. Uber investor Shervin Pishevar, for instance, is a high-profile investor and supporter, while LinkedIn founder and investor Reid Hoffman has pledged to support a crowd-funding campaign for veterans if Trump releases his tax returns, and even produced a satirical card game: “Trumped Up Cards: The World’s Biggest Dek.”
Trump’s racist and sexist attitudes are also at odds with Silicon Valley’s ongoing concerns over its lack of diversity.
He has criticised tech firms such as Amazon and Apple, as well as taking a polar-opposite view on immigration from the tech industry.
All of which makes Thiel’s support for Trump — a self-professed gay man who emigrated from Germany as a child — a position which the vast majority of the tech industry views as bewildering.
Thiel also funded the wrestler Hulk Hogan’s successful lawsuit against the gossip site Gawker (which was later forced to close), a move viewed by many as anti-democratic by many in tech.
But whether there will be tangible ‘blowback’ in the tech world from his move remains to be seen.
Voices in tech commenting on Thiel’s decision are starting to appear online today.
Catherine Bracy, Co-Founder and ED of techequity.us and formerly of @codeforamerica and #Obama2012 tweeted:
Founder of Thington Tom Coates weighed in with
And Laura I. Gómez, CEO of @GetAtipica, and who has 280,000 followers did not mince her words:
Thiel just became a part-time advisor of Y Combinator, viewed as the Valley’s most powerful accelerator, a move which is being hotly discussed on Hacker News in relation to this story.
It’s a fact which could make board meetings interesting between Thiel and YC founder Paul Graham, given the latter’s concerns about a Trump presidency: