How Peter Thiel’s Political Stance Affects Startups

October 25, 2016 - 2 minutes read


Ellen Pao of Project Include took to Medium this week to explain why they were breaking off ties with prominent startup accelerator Y Combinator. The reason, in short: Peter Thiel’s increasingly unpredictable endorsements and behavior.

While Thiel has drawn criticism from the tech community before thanks to his support of floating cities, morality-bending age extension techniques, and other actions you honestly would expect from an eccentric billionaire, Thiel’s latest endorsement is a poison pill for many in the generally left-leaning San Francisco mobile app development community: Trump.

Specifically, Thiel turned heads around the world when he placed a $1.25 million contribution to Trump’s campaign in the midst of a scandal about the candidate making crude remarks about women on a hot mic.

Y Combinator has opted to stand by Thiel in spite of the divisive donation, even as startups throughout the mobile app economy express disapproval or even threaten to break off ties or not work with the accelerator in the future. Whether or not this has a major effect on one of the US’s major startup funding programs in the short and long term, app developers want to know: is supporting Trump out of the question for forward-thinking tech companies?

Some pundits have remarked that cutting off Thiel over his political views is extreme in its own right, notably YC’s president, who tweeted that “Cutting off opposing viewpoints leads to extremism and will not get us the country we want” before going on the describe free speech as painful but necessary for democracy.

No matter your political orientation, this is clearly a tricky question with major consequences for mobile app developers. Let’s hope that Thiel and the YC community is able to negotiate on the PR front and get through the election season without too much more turmoil and controversy.

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