If you only read headlines about achingly politically correct tech founders like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Silicon Valley, for all its rapacious capitalistic instincts, is a hellhole of progressive hand-wringing.
But that’s not what I hear from CEOs and angel investors on the libertarian wing of the Valley, some of whom are so fed up with the state of Obama’s America they are openly discussing seasteading and carving California up into smaller states. They say Silicon Valley is distinctly unimpressed with Hillary Clinton and that fundraising events have been surprisingly frosty affairs.
They also point out that Silicon Valley’s reputation for wacky leftist politics isn’t the whole story. It comes partly from lower-level employees, who are vocal on Twitter about “diversity” and help to shape the image of many young social media startups. They don’t speak for founders or investors, who are less politically idealistic.
The impression is also drawn from marketing language and corporate social responsibility initiatives designed to give red-in-tooth-and-claw business models the allure of friendly and approachable progressive campaigns. They point to the “sharing economy” as a prime example.
To be sure, some San Francisco startups are left-wing through and through, particularly the social networks. But even among the likes of Twitter and Facebook, there are board members and influential early investors whose politics could not be more removed from those of its marketing managers. And you only need to look to Uber, which is hoovering up rich, posh, conservative graduates, to realise the tech industry is more politically diverse than it’s given credit for.
I can’t give too much away, obviously. But astute readers will be able to work out the sort of person I’ve been talking to over the past few months — and they’re not low-level PR executives. On a recent drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco, one investor spoke in glowing terms about Trump’s potential to win over Valley elites.
What little Donald Trump has said publicly about tech, including an exclusive interview with Breitbart Tech for our launch, has not suggested a particularly deep commitment to courting the technology industry beyond concerns about national security. He has, for example, hinted at his disapproval of video games.
Valley insiders say that if he were to give them the visas they want — admittedly a tough sell to his core supporters — and sit down with founders from tech, media, gaming, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, he’d find an unlikely but significant base of support among some of Silicon Valley’s most influential players.
Venture capitalists are getting sick of being slammed in the tech press for being white male clubs and for discriminating against women and people of color — which of course they don’t. If there’s a problem with minority representation, and some argue there’s no problem to be fixed at all, it’s a question of supply. VCs can hardly be blamed for the skin color of people who walk through their doors asking for money.
Constant nagging and name-calling from left-wing media has left many investors disillusioned with progressive politics. Combine that with the rapidly acquired and staggering net worth of many of these individuals, their natural predisposition toward rugged individualism and the cult of “disruption” and it’s not hard to see why many are quietly switching their allegiances to libertarian and even Republican political figures.
Don’t expect tech industry figureheads to praise the likes of Sarah Palin any time soon. But it’s worth remembering that for all the public donations to the Democrats made for public relations purposes by Valley startups and their founders, many of the richest and most successful people in the tech industry hail culturally from the wilds of 4chan, where Trump is adored.
Watching entertainment stars come out for Trump, says one VC, means that one or two Valley bigwigs might even be moved to support Trump publicly. That would cause uproar in tech media. But if Trump’s winning streak continues, it’s not as unlikely as you think.