Peter Thiel has always been something of a Silicon Valley lightening rod, but in the past week he’s become its litmus test.
For the uninitiated, Thiel is a venture capitalist and longtime Republican with libertarian leanings, who earlier this year endorsed Donald Trump for president (after first donating to Carly Fiorina). He spoke at the RNC in Cleveland, and then donated $1.25 million to Trump’s campaign after the infamous Access Hollywood tape (plus many of the subsequent sexual assault accusations). Thiel has not publicly commented on Trump’s sordid past, instead focusing on the candidate’s promise to slash government bureaucracy and inefficiency without being beholden to Republican dogma.
Given that Silicon Valley bleeds blue in a normal election cycle ― and that even some of its GOP outliers (Meg Whitman, Marc Andreessen, etc.) have deemed Trump particularly unfit for office ― Thiel’s actions have caused an uproar, with particular attention being paid to his Facebook board seat and his unpaid role as a part-time advisor to Y Combinator. There have been calls for both Facebook and YC to dump Thiel (something both have refused to do), and just yesterday we heard venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya (a former FB exec who wanted to help manage a Mike Bloomberg run) say at the Vanity Fair Summit that he’d (hypothetically) kick Thiel off the board of a company he controls.
And I agree with the pitch-forkers. Thiel has to go. Not from his own funds, of course, but from third-party organizations whose continuing embrace of Thiel is a de facto acceptance of his candidate’s racist proposals (banning immigrants based on their religion) and pathological misogyny. Thiel isn’t publicly endorsing those parts of Trump, but picking a president isn’t a trip to the salad bar. You get the whole meal. Thiel’s continuing presence at Facebook and YC is a cocky, counterproductive reminder to female and minority entrepreneurs that they are second-class citizens in the white boys club of Silicon Valley.
Particularly at Facebook, where he plays a very active role (flashback to my Uber/Saudi argument). Had Thiel said many of the things Trump has said, he’d have been fired (as YC’s Sam Altman acknowledges). His escalating support cannot be excused because there is a degree of separation. And if YC once banned certain companies from Demo Day because they supported SOPA, it currently can ban a part-time advisor for this.
This is where it’s important to note that I also agree with those who believe this campaign against Thiel is an anti-American witch hunt. For the record, this group happens to include a majority of Term Sheet readers who chimed in via email. For starters, there are laws in California against this very thing, which only don’t apply in this particular case because Thiel isn’t technically an employee of either Facebook or YC. But clearly the spirit of the law ― which is in the same vein as not being able to fire tenured professors over political speech ― is in play here.
More importantly, do you really want to codify a culture in which unpopular political opinions cannot be tolerated, in the pursuit of a culture of tolerance? And, remember, Trump is a mainstream political candidate, no matter how inconceivable that may seem to you. If we acknowledge that demographic diversity has intrinsic value to an organization, shouldn’t ideological diversity have the same? This isn’t the same as tolerating an ISIS apologist in your business midst. He was nominated by a major political party, and there is a reasonable argument supporters can make that macro policy (namely SCOTUS) “trumps” temperament.
He’s gotta stay.
I know that part of my job is to stake a claim and make my case. And I actually have written much longer versions of the above arguments, in a bizarre rhetorical battle that reminded me a bit of Ash debating Mirror Ash. In the end, all I knew was that this one wasn’t cut-and-dried ― no matter the stridency some others have expressed ― and I couldn’t pretend that it was.
If you believe this is cut-and-dried, then I respect it. I just don’t agree.
THE BIG DEAL
• Cerberus Capital Management is in talks to acquire the European business of Staples Inc. (Nasdaq: SPLS), according to The Daily Telegraph. Read more.
VENTURE CAPITAL DEALS
• EverQuote Inc., a Cambridge, Mass.-based insurance marketplace, has raised $23 million in Series B funding. Savano Capital Partners led the round, and was joined by Stratim Capital, Oceanic Partners and T Capital Partners. www.everquote.com
• Propeller Health, a Madison, Wis.-based provider of digital solutions for respiratory medicine, has raised $21.5 million in Series C funding. Backers include 3M Ventures, S.R. One, Limited, Hikma Ventures and return backers Safeguard Scientifics and Social Capital. www.propellerhealth.com
• Ladder, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based provider of life insurance via digital channels, has raised $14 million in Series A funding. Canaan Partners led the round, and was joined by Lightspeed Venture Partners, NYCA and 8VC. www.ladderlife.com
• Moov, a San Mateo, Calif-based developer of AI-enabled fitness wearables, has raised $12 million in Series B funding. Mangrove Capital led the round, and was joined by BOE Technology Group. http://www.moov.cc
• Hangar, an Austin, Texas-based developer of autonomous data capture using drone technology, has raised $6.5 million in seed funding led by Lux Capital. www.hangar.com
• Nvoicepay, a Beaverton, Ore.-based provider of enterprise payment automation software, has raised $10 million in growth equity funding from Napier Park Financial Partners. www.nvoicepay.com
• Finrise, a Burlingame, Calif.-based online lending company for on-premises healthcare expenses, has raised $5.4 million in seed and venture debt funding. Backers include Mayfield, NFX Guild and WTI. Read more.
• Ritual, a West Hollywood, Calif.-based women’s vitamin startup, has raised $3.5 million in seed funding. Forerunner Ventures led the round, and was joined by Norwest Venture Partners, NEA and return backers Upfront Ventures and Rivet Ventures. Read more.
• Pay By Group, a white-label e-commerce conversion tool that enables cost-splitting, has raised $3.4 million in seed funding led by SparkLabs Global Ventures. www.paybygroup.com
• Undo, a UK-based provider of software debugging tools, has raised $3.3 million in Series A funding led by Cambridge Innovation Capital. www.undo.io
• Tribe, a San Francisco-based group messaging app, has raised $3 million in seed funding from Sequoia Capital, Ludlow Ventures, Partech Ventures and Kima Ventures.
• Feedzai, a San Mateo, Calif.-based provider of e-commerce fraud detection solutions, has raised an undisclosed amount of strategic funding from Citi Ventures. www.feedzai.com
• MapD, a San Francisco-based provider of “GPU powered analytics for the enterprise,” has raised an undisclosed amount of VC funding from In-Q-Tel. www.mapd.com
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec has acquired a $155 million minority stake in TVS Logistics Services Ltd., an Indian provider of logistics and warehousing services, from Goldman Sachs and KKR. The company’s management will acquire the remaining position. Read more.
• Vision Media Management, a Valencia, Calif.-based portfolio company of CenterGate Capital, has acquired Fordela Corp., a San Francisco-based provider of digital asset management, streaming, and video on demand solutions. No financial terms were disclosed. www.visionmediamgmt.com
• Forterra Inc., an Irving, Texas-based manufacturer of pipe and precast products, raised $332 million in its IPO. The company priced 18.42 million shares at $18 per share (below $19-$21 range), for an initial market cap of $1.15 billion. It will trade on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol FRTA, while Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Credit Suisse served as co-lead underwriters. Forterra reported a $13.4 million net loss (pro forma) for Q1 2016 on $362 million in revenue. www.forterrabp.com
• GDS Holdings, a China-based data center operator, has set its IPO terms to 19.25 million shares being offered at between $12 and $14 per share. It plans to trade on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol GDS, with Credit Suisse and J.P. Morgan serving as co-lead underwriters. It reports a $23.2 million net loss on $67.3 million in revenue for the first half of 2016. Shareholders include ST Telemedia (45.1% pre-IPO stake), SB China Venture Capital (18.1%) and Ping An Insurance (9.9%).
• iRhythm Technologies Inc., a San Francisco-based developer of cardiac diagnostic monitoring solutions, raised $107 million in its IPO. The company priced 6.3 million shares at $17 per share, compared to earlier plans to sell 5.35 million shares at between $13 and $15 per share. It will trade on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol IRTC, while J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley served as lead underwriters. iRhythm reported a $10.6 million net loss on $28.6 million in revenue for the first half of 2016, and has raised nearly $100 million in VC funding from firms like Synergy Life Science Partners (16.39% pre-IPO stake), Norwest Venture Partners (16.01%), Novo AS (13.68%), New Leaf Venture Partners (12.03%), Mohr Davidow Ventures (9.76%) and Kaiser Permanente Ventures (9.37%) and Stanford University. www.irhythmtech.com
• Cinven has agreed to sell Avio Space Propulsion, an Italy-based space launcher and space propulsion company, to Italy-listed Space2. No financial terms were disclosed. Read more.
• Polaris Management has sold Car-O-Liner, a Sweden-based provider of collision repair equipment to the automotive aftermarket, to Snap-On (NYSE: SNA) for $155 million. www.car-o-liner.com
• Terra Firma Capital Partners is planning to launch a sale process early next year for AWAS Aviation Capital, an Ireland-based aircraft leasing business whose shareholders also include Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, according to the WSJ. Read more.
• Elior Group (Paris: ELIOR) has acquired a minority stake in La Belle Assiette, a France-based provider of online booking for caterers. No financial terms were disclosed. www.labelleassiette.fr
• GNC Holdings (NYSE: GNC), the Pittsburgh-based nutritional supplement retailer with a $1.5 billion market cap, has met with multiple Chinese companies about a possible takeover, according to the WSJ. Read more.
• Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) is “questioning whether to proceed” with its planned purchase of certain Rite Aid stores from Walgreens Boots Alliance (Nasdaq: WBA), which are being divested by Walgreens in order to satisfy regulatory requirements for its $9.4 billion purchase of Rite Aid (NYSE: RAD). Specifically, Kroger has been told that it cannot shut and integrate certain Rite Aid locations that are adjacent to existing Kroger locations. Read more.
• Tableau Software (NYSE: DATA) earlier this year hired investment bank Qatalyst to explore a possible sale, according to Reuters. Read more.
FIRMS & FUNDS
• Polaris Management, a Danish private equity firm, has closed its fourth fund with approximately $488 million in capital commitments. www.polaris.dk
• Qatar is considering a sovereign wealth commitment to the $100 billion-targeted tech investment fund being raised by SoftBank, according to Bloomberg. Read more.
MOVING IN, UP AND ON
• GE Ventures has promoted Alex de Winter to managing director. He also has relocated to Boston, where he’ll focus on healthcare investments. www.geventures.com
• Peter Landauer and Jeffery Moy have joined private equity placement firm Harken Capital Securities as managing directors. Landauer has spent the past 12 years with the University of Florida Investment Corp. as director of private investments, where he oversaw a $1.2 billion portfolio. Moy previously was head of private equity for Central Park Group. www.harkencapital.com
• Jess Lee, founder of Polyvore (acquired by Yahoo). has joined Sequoia Capital as a partner. Read more.
• Tricia Patrick has joined Advent International as a Boston-based managing director focused on retail, consumer and leisure investments. She previously spent 12 years with Bain Capital, most recently as a principal. www.adventinternational.com
• Vector Capital has promoted Alok Pandy to vice president. He joined the firm in 2014, and sits on the boards of portfolio company Emarsys and ChyronHego. www.vectorcapital.com
• Adam Whitehead has joined private equity firm CRG (f.k.a. Capital Royalty) as VP of investor relations. He previously was with Crestone Capital Advisors. www.crglp.com
• Bob Williams, who had been with EMC Ventures since 2012, has joined Canaan Partners as a “VC-in-residence,” according to his LinkedIn profile. Prior to EMC, Williams spent a decade with Bay Partners. www.canaan.com
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