Project Include — a "group effort to accelerate diversity and inclusion solutions in the tech industry" — has announced that it will no longer work with the Y Combinator accelerator because of its ties to Peter Thiel, the billionaire Facebook investor who has backed Donald Trump and donated $1.25M to his campaign.
Project Include co-founder Erica Baker tweeted, "Firing an average employee over supporting an average political candidate doesn't make sense. "Trump is not an average political candidate. Trump is a fascist. He has never called himself this, because fascists rarely announce themselves. We learn who they are by deed/word…. If Thiel is a partner in name only, does not depend on YC for his livelihood, [and] is contributing little, why keep him on? What's the benefit? To that end, what YC companies would still want Thiel's advice? Who would want to remain associated with a man funding a campaign of hate?"
Y Combinator president Sam Altman says that he is wary of terminating the group's association with someone merely for supporting one of the two major parties' presidential candidates, and he says that Thiel has endorsed Trump, but has not explicitly endorsed Trump's racist or sexist point of view — a narrow distinction.
Project Include provided "access" to more than 1,000 investors to companies in the Y Combinator accelerator.
Earlier, by way of comparison, Altman asked me if I'd keep Thiel on Facebook's board given the choice. (I'm not a billionaire who's paid to make these kinds of decisions, so it's easy for me to give a hypothetical no.)
As for Altman, he suggested that Thiel actually added diversity to Facebook's board. "So one thing I agree with is that companies' boards should reflect their end users. And although I think they are utterly wrong, probably 43 percent of Facebook's users [in the US] are Trump supporters. I think a company like Facebook should target having a board that represents the community they serve. And although I think supporting Trump is a bad thing, it's sort of hard for me to say Trump supporters should be disqualified from the board."
Altman however added that it was probably "less important" than increasing gender or racial diversity on Facebook's board. Facebook's board is made up of eight people, two of whom are women. All are white. When the latter fact was pointed out, Altman replied, "That seems like the most important thing to talk about?"
Horrified by Trump, Silicon Valley Leaders Debate Cutting Ties to Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel, YC, and hard decisions
(Image: Peter Theil at the Hy! Summit Heisenberg Media, CC-BY)