Renowned venture capitalist Chris Sacca took some shots at President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday at the annual Finnish technology conference Slush in Helsinki.
“There’s a real libertarian streak in Silicon Valley that I think is coming back to bite us on the ass right now. You know, when I was going door to door saying, ‘Hey look, we gotta get involved. We gotta campaign here,’ I think people were saying, ‘Welllll, it’s not our place to advocate. We should be neutral.’ Neutral is fine when it’s the difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.”
Sacca, who is an early investor in Uber, Twilio, Twitter, Uber, and Kickstarter, said he struggled to get people in Silicon Valley to care about the Clinton campaign and that people there are now deeply regretful, continuing to drive home that apathy for politics had failed to catalyze people to prevent what Sacca said was a political crisis.
“Neutral is not fine when it’s somebody who openly advocates for racial and gender and ethnic discrimination who wants to build a f*cking wall and somehow make another country pay for it; a person who has actively threatened to censor our industry, an industry that I think has really taken for granted how open and free we are to innovate and so I think he’s a real threat.”
He then went on to discuss H-1B visas, the method by which foreign tech talent often makes its way to American startups. The lack of smooth segue from the rant about political ignorance among techies seemed to imply that influential investors and entrepreneurs did not make a substantial effort to defend the H-1B visa from attack by the Trump campaign, nor take his threats to immigration seriously.
In his mind, that was egregious and threatened to undermine the future of the Valley.
“We depend on immigration to fuel our companies. Our greatest talent isn’t necessarily coming domestically. Some of our smartest, best and most successful founders are coming from abroad. You know, for the United States to continue its leadership in tech we need to be an open, attractive, and inclusive place for those people right now.”
He then contrasted it with the rise of China, whose tech prowess and funding power has become immense in recent years.
“The most amazing thing, right after Donald Trump was elected . . . the Chinese actually stepped up and said, ‘Hey! Come found your company in China!’ I mean, it’s f*cking surreal, right?!” saying a “formally repressive” China supplanting the US as a better place for foreigners to found new ventures went against the reality he had always known.
Sacca: Facebook bears responsibility
The rant came during a “fireside chat” (with literal fire on the side of the stage) discussing hesitation among would-be entrepreneurs and other faults of Silicon Valley workers. In that context, he let go of frustration he had about the American tech community’s perceived lack of involvement in American politics. Specifically, the rant came as a follow-up question about corporate responsibility in SV after another candid rant about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s response to the fake news storm.
— Chris Sacca (@sacca) November 30, 2016
“First I think our community needs to take responsibility in the role we played in letting a completely fraudulent, fake, billionaire, hate-monger rise to this level of prominence and everything we did to promote horribly fake messages,” in an obvious reference to Donald Trump. “I mean, when you see Facebook both eager to censor news in China and yet openly saying ‘Oh, we don’t know what to do about the fake news problem in America,’ it’s bullsh*t.”
He continued to lay into Facebook for denying their own filter bubble and claiming that people were exposed to more information now than they would have been without social media, though he did not reference a specific statement by the company to that effect.
“We know the algorithm really reinforces channels and keeps you in a tighter bubble than you ever would have experienced anywhere growing up. We have to acknowledge that first.”
It remains to be seen if his words will portend any fallout. What is likely to continue is a deepening mistrust between Trump and anyone who has perceived him to be unqualified for the presidency. How widespread Sacca’s precise sentiments are in Silicon Valley three weeks after the election and as Trump fills his cabinet is not exactly clear.
Sentiment about Facebook’s role in the campaign, and the possibility that Facebook looked the other way while fake news sites were made to draw revenue or possibly act as conduits for foreign propaganda, would seem still to be strong.
You can listen to the entire chat here.