Tech diversity initiative cuts ties with Peter Thiel-connected incubator

Tech diversity initiative cuts ties with Peter Thiel-connected incubator
© Greg Nash

A Silicon Valley diversity initiative cut ties with the startup incubator Y Combinator on Monday because of its relationship with billionaire investor Peter Thiel, who recently announced his first donation to GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE.


Ellen Pao, the former Reddit chief executive who is one of the people behind Project Include, said she found Thiel’s $1.25 million donation to Trump deeply concerning in a way that goes beyond simple political differences.

“While all of us believe in the ideas of free speech and open platforms, we draw a line here,” she wrote in a post on Medium. “We agree that people shouldn’t be fired for their political views, but this isn’t a disagreement on tax policy, this is advocating hatred and violence.

Project Include will no longer have a relationship with Y Combinator, Pao said. 

The incubator, which gives advice and funding to groups of startups in exchange for an equity stake, was one of the investment groups that was part of the project’s “effort to help us collect data and show what is possible in diversity and inclusion for tech companies.”

“Giving more power to someone whose ascension and behavior strike fear into so many people is unacceptable,” Pao said, citing Trump’s “attacks on Black, Mexican, Asian, Muslim, and Jewish people, on women, and on others.”

Her announcement comes after Y Combinator head Sam Altman said Sunday night that the organization would not sever ties with Thiel, who is a “part-time partner” at the incubator. 

Thiel founded PayPal and the data analysis firm Palantir, and was an early investor in Facebook. He is also a board member of the social network.

Thiel has raised eyebrows in Silicon Valley this year for his vocal support of Trump’s campaign, which has been part of several controversies related to race since its inception

The donations Thiel announced this week are his first to the presidential candidate. They come after multiple women accused Trump of sexual assault and harassment.

Pao said that Project Include still has “hope for YC,” despite ending the relationship.

“Because of [Thiel’s] continued connection to YC, we are compelled to break off our relationship with YC,” she said. “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.”