One of the most prominent venture capitalists in Silicon Valley is leaving the sector for political reasons. Investor Peter Thiel, arguably best known for his involvement in Facebook, has announced he is reducing his involvement in the sector due to the increased intolerance for conservative values. Over the past few years, Thiel has also sold his stake or left the board of several high-profile startups such as Asana, Zenefits, and Twilio. A resident of the San Francisco area for the past forty years, Thiel is moving his home and investment firms to Los Angeles. Thiel’s plans for Los Angeles include a new media outlet aimed at the discussion of conservative topics.
Thiel has been involved in several prominent startups during his tenure in Silicon Valley. One of the most noteworthy was as co-founder of PayPal with Elon Musk where he served as CEO until the company was sold to eBay in 2002. However, one of Thiel’s greatest financial success stories is his involvement in Facebook. Thiel purchased 10% of the company for $50 million in 2004. With Facebook now being valued at over 500 billion, Thiel has profited over $1 billion from the investment. However, due to support for presidential candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 election, Thiel drew much criticism from many at Facebook as well as fellow board member Netflix chief executive Richard Hastings. In a 2016 email, Hastings questioned whether Thiel was fit to continue his role on the board due to his Trump endorsement. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg declined the removal request stating political diversity was key to the workplace. Thiel is expected to remain on Facebook’s board at least for the short term.
According to a recent survey by the Lincoln Network, the lion’s share of tech workers would describe their workplace as liberal culturally. More than a third of those that responded indicated the contrast in political views with co-workers adversely affected their output. This, coupled with increased conservative intolerance since the election, and fear of increased regulation are the root of Thiel’s decision to withdraw from the tech field. In a debate at Stanford University, Thiel stated “Silicon Valley is a one-party state… That’s when you get in trouble politically in our society, when you’re all in one side.”