Peter Thiel is supporting Donald Trump, and it’s time to for Silicon Valley to take sides. Is it for Peter Thiel or against him? Relatedly, should Y Combinator president Sam Altman resign if he can’t bring himself to fire Thiel as a part-time partner?
These were actual questions posed publicly yesterday, I’m sorry to note.
It’s clear that Trump is about as popular as the Zika virus in Silicon Valley (and, seemingly, a growing number of other places). But it’s worth asking: Why does everyone care so much what Peter Thiel thinks about politics? Is he also running for office? Did somebody appoint him Silicon Valley’s official representative in Washington? Along the same vein, why spend so much time worrying about what Sam Altman says and whether Y Combinator will continue to work with Thiel?
The common wisdom seems to be that Trump poses a threat to the country, and because Thiel sits on the boards of some very powerful companies, including Facebook, we should be concerned by his support of Trump. Meanwhile, Y Combinator is an influential force in Silicon Valley, and if it continues to employ Thiel as a part-time partner, it’s sending the wrong message to the many entrepreneurs whose minds it is helping to shape and who may themselves be in positions of power at some point.
Aren’t we all smarter than this? Do we really think founders are that impressionable? Thiel is renowned, yes, but there are many successful people with varied perspectives in Silicon Valley. Those worried about a Trump presidency should be delighted that Thiel is seemingly alone in sticking his neck out here. It could be a lot worse.
I don’t know Thiel. I’ve interviewed him maybe a handful of times, and nearly a decade ago, he accepted an invitation I extended to meet a gaggle of reporters out for drinks at a dumpy pool hall, which I thought was nice, even if it was also self-serving.
But I’m a little astonished by how he tends to be depicted by the media.