If savvy investment is all about timing, Peter Thiel may have lost his touch. The PayPal co-founder and billionaire venture capitalist has, according to the New York Times, chosen to give $1.25 million to the campaign of GOP candidate Donald Trump, at a moment when that campaign seems to have roughly the turnaround potential of Theranos.
The donations, a source close to Thiel told the Times, will be divided between a super PAC and direct contributions to the campaign.
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Thiel, an avowed libertarian whose parents immigrated to the U.S. when he was a toddler, already raised the ire of the tech community by speaking at the Republican National Convention that nominated Trump. Even then, remember, a few major tech companies were so anti-Trump they withdrew their traditional convention partnerships.
Broader political sentiments aside, Trump’s positions on security, immigration, and free speech would likely be harmful to the tech industry. And for an industry that has been accused of marginalizing both women and minorities, association with Trump has become even more toxic over the past week.
On that front, Thiel's donation presents a particular optical challenge for Palantir Technologies, which he co-founded and holds a major stake in. Palantir is currently battling a racial discrimination suit from the Department of Labor.
Thiel’s donation could have an impact on his many relationships in Silicon Valley. For instance, as TechCrunch points out, Thiel recently became an advisor to Y Combinator, whose founder, Paul Graham, is vocally anti-Trump. Thiel also sits on the board of Facebook, whose CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has publicly criticized Trump's policy and rhetoric. Facebook took pains to distance itself from Thiel's GOP convention speech.
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On Twitter, engineers and entrepreneurs are already being generous with their opinions.