Tech billionaire Peter Thiel’s reported $1.25m contribution to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has prompted a high-profile Silicon Valley organization to cut ties with a startup incubator backed by the Republican donor.
Ellen Pao, a former Reddit executive and vocal advocate for diversity in tech, has announced that her group Project Include is ending its relationship with Y Combinator, the well-known startup “accelerator” where Thiel is a part-time partner.
“Thiel’s actions are in direct conflict with our values at Project Include,” Pao wrote on Monday, referring to the not-for-profit group that she and a group of prominent Silicon Valley women formed earlier this year to push for “diversity and inclusion solutions in the tech industry”.
“Because of his continued connection to YC [Y Combinator], we are compelled to break off our relationship with YC. We hope this situation changes, and that we are both willing to move forward together in the future. Today it is clear to us that our values are not aligned,” Pao continued.
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Influential developer and Tumblr co-founder Marco Arment also called out Y-Combinator for sticking with Thiel. “This is literally paying a huge amount of money to directly support a racist, sexist bigot with rapidly mounting allegations of multiple sexual assaults,” he wrote.
“[Y-Combinator is] defending the large-scale support of racism, bigotry, and sexual assault by an influential partner and advisor to their startups as its own form of ‘diversity’.”
The announcement signals possible fallout in the California tech industry surrounding the political donations and campaigning of Thiel, who helped found PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook.
Thiel, a conservative outlier in the Democratic stronghold of Silicon Valley, became a state delegate for Trump earlier this year and delivered a much-discussed speech at the Republican national convention, during which he said: “I am proud to be gay.”