Some prominent Silicon Valley investors are moving to the right

In 2021, David Sacks, a prominent venture capital investor and podcast host, said that former President Donald J. Trump's behavior during the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol had disqualified him from being a future candidate politic.

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

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

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

Some investors, like Chamath Palihapitiya of Social Capital, have supported Democrats in the past. (He is set to host the fundraiser for Trump alongside Sacks.) Others, such as Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz and Shaun Maguire of Sequoia Capital, criticized Biden without expressing support for Trump. Still others, like Keith Rabois of Khosla Ventures, are focusing their efforts on electing Republicans to Congress.

The activity could amount to more noise than formal support or personal donations for Trump's campaign. And that's not all of them at all. Much of Silicon Valley, including major donors like investors Reid Hoffman and Vinod Khosla, remains loyal to Democrats. Peter Thiel, the investor who has supported Trump in the past, said he was disillusioned with politics and wanted to stay out of the 2024 race.

But right-leaning tech investors are influential, with huge social media followings and lots of money — and they're becoming increasingly politically engaged. This reflects how the start-up sector has grown – eightfold between 2012 and 2022 to $344 billion, according to PitchBook, which tracks start-ups – with most issues of sector which have become political in nature.

“When I started, everyone 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 much more complex.”

Delian Asparouhov, an investor at Founders Fund, the investment firm recently founded by Mr. Thiel 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 the attendees for “keeping their chins up” and said he was looking forward to meeting them.

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

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

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

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

Thiel's strong and enthusiastic support for Trump in 2016, which included a $1.25 million donation and a speech at the Republican National Convention, came as a shock. Even more surprising to some in the industry was how, after Trump won the election that year, the world seemed to blame tech companies for his victory. The resulting “tech strike” against Facebook and others has caused some industry leaders to reevaluate their political views, a trend that has continued throughout the social and political turmoil of the pandemic.

During that time, Democrats moved further 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 they're evil, eventually they won't like it,” he said. “I see it in venture capital.”

This sentiment has strengthened under President Biden. Some investors said they were frustrated that her choice for Federal Trade Commission chair, Lina Khan, had moved aggressively to block takeovers, one of the main ways venture capitalists make money. They said they were also unhappy that Gary Gensler, Biden's pick to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, has been hostile to cryptocurrency companies.

The start-up sector has also been in recession since 2022, with higher interest rates pushing capital away from risky bets and a dismal market for initial public offerings limiting opportunities for investors to cash in on their prized investments.

Some also said they disliked Biden's March proposal to raise taxes, including a 25% “billionaire tax” on certain holdings that could include shares of start-ups, as well as a higher tax rate on profits from successful investments.

Sacks said at last week's tech conference that he believes such taxes could kill startups' system of offering stock options to founders and employees. “It's a good reason for Silicon Valley to think seriously about who it wants to vote for,” he said.

Some tech investors are also furious about Biden's handling of foreign affairs and other issues.

“It is impossible to support Biden,” said Rabois of Khosla Ventures, adding that he is not even a fan of Trump. “I am focused on electing a Republican Congress and Senate.”

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

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

Last month, Sacks, Thiel, Elon Musk and other top investors attended an “anti-Biden” dinner in Hollywood, where attendees discussed fundraising and how to stand up to Democrats, a person familiar with the situation said . The dinner was previously reported by Puck.

The change in attitude reflects the country's broader frustrations with both sides, said Franklin of the National Venture Capital Association. “Tech, venture capital and Silicon Valley are looking at the current state of things and saying, 'I'm not satisfied with any of these options,'” ​​she said. “'I can no longer count on Democrats to support technology issues, and I can no longer count on Republicans to support economic issues.'”

Ben Horowitz, a founder of Andreessen Horowitz, wrote in a blog post last year that the company would support any politician who supported “an optimistic, technology-enabled future” and would oppose anyone who didn't. Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Andreessen each donated more than $11 million to political causes in the past year. Most of the money went to Fairshake, a political action group focused on supporting crypto-friendly lawmakers.

In November, a group of prominent investors and start-up founders signed an open letter to Biden criticizing an executive order aimed at creating safeguards on the development of artificial intelligence. They accused it of stifling innovation.

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

This month, Mr. Helberg, married to Mr. Rabois, donated $1 million to the Trump campaign. The donation was previously reported by the Washington Post.

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