Michael Moe was speaking at a gathering of technology startups a few weeks ago when he was asked “out of the blue” about his support of President Trump.
“I knew 95% of the people in that room didn’t have my point of view,” Moe told CNNTech. “When I was done nobody, like, attacked me.” But, he adds, “we’ll see if the sponsor of the talk asks me back.”
Moe, 54, is rare in Silicon Valley for being a Trump voter — and rarer still for being willing to say so publicly. Like Peter Thiel, the industry’s most famous Trump backer, Moe may have more freedom to share his unpopular political views by virtue of being an influential investor.
GSV Capital, the venture firm Moe cofounded and runs, has invested in Facebook (Tech30), Spotify, Lyft and this year’s biggest new publicly traded tech company, , Snapchat (. )
Since the election, Moe said he’s been approached by people in the area who voted for Trump but are too afraid to admit it to anyone. Some, he sid, “wouldn’t tell their wife.”
“I enjoy having conversations with people about why my view is my view,” said Moe, who is also the author of “The Global Silicon Valley Handbook.” “But I think certainly there’s not a person in my office who shares my viewpoint.”
The tech industry criticized Trump loudly and often during his campaign. Some prominent executives compared Trump to Hitler and designed a card game to make fun of him. Many actively raised money for his opponent.
Nearly 100 days into Trump’s presidency, clear tensions remain. Tech companies, including Moe’s investments like Lyft, have joined legal fights against the Trump administration’s travel ban and rollback of transgender rights. A new battle is now brewing over net neutrality.
Moe is critical of Trump’s travel ban and health care efforts. However, Moe stressed his main incentives for backing Trump were issues like corporate tax and regulatory reform, which he argues could “be great for Silicon Valley.”
“Hopefully,” Moe said, “people who have known me understand this isn’t ideological at all.”
Like Thiel and others in the tech industry, Moe used to identify as a libertarian. “Then my daughters gave me such grief,” he said, because he’d never actually voted for a libertarian candidate.
Moe has been involved with the tech industry long enough to remember when it wasn’t “openly political.” The attitude, he said, used to be: “Politics is for other people, we’re about technology.”
That changed during the past decade. New and existing tech companies branched out into regulated areas like transportation, healthcare and banking. At the same time, Internet services like Facebook and Twitter (Tech30) have become central to political campaigns. ,
In Obama, the industry generally found a kindred spirit who dined with Steve Jobs, appointed America’s first CTO and hinted at a desire to become a venture capitalist.
In Trump, Silicon Valley has found a foil. And those few tech insiders who do side with Trump risk being demonized.
“I think people who have a point of view shouldn’t be afraid to voice that view,” Moe said. “I think right now it’s probably unhealthy.”
CNNMoney (New York) First published April 20, 2017: 7:51 AM ET