Aug 25, 2016 · 5 minutes

"It doesn’t matter who you are—a journalist, a politician or a voter—we’ll all be judged by how we responded to Donald Trump." - Jorge Ramos

The venture firm CRV - nee Charles River Ventures - has updated its webpage to say “Fuck Trump” in response to the presidential candidate’s ghastly policies on immigration and race. As Sarah said in her coverage of the move, it’s by far the strongest statement we’ve seen from an entire Silicon Valley firm when it comes to this election cycle.

In fact, when it comes to Trump, other major Valley firms have been institutionally silent. While several individual partners - Ken Lerer and Eric Hippeau from Lerer Hippeau Ventures* most aggressively - were happy to go on-record with their anti-Trump views (and Founder’s Fund’s* Peter Thiel has made clear his pro-Trump stance), no other major VC firm would join CRV in making a firm-wide statement on the election.

In perhaps the most puzzling response, an Andreessen Horowitz* spokesperson told Sarah “We are not taking a firm-wide stance on politics. But you can assume that nobody around here is pro-Trump.” .

In other words, every single person at our firm is against Trump, but we’re not going to say our entire firm is against Trump.

Isn’t that odd? That so many major Valley firms would be unwilling to take an institutional stance on an issue so huge, and so likely to affect their portfolio companies, as Donald Trump becoming the next president of the United States. Someone who, on almost every issue, stands opposed to everything Silicon Valley is supposed to represent?

Why so coy? Companies in other industries take political positions all the time. Why not VC firms?

If you pressed those firms further, I suspect you’d get waffly answers around wanting to stay focussed on their own businesses or on not trying to speak for every last employee of the firm. What if someone in the mail room is pro Trump? We don’t want to put words in their mouth! Which, of course, is as nonsensical as Oreo worrying that its gay pride ads might offend any secret homophobes hiding inside Mondelēz or that WalMart's transgender bathroom policy might offend a random shop-floor bigot.

No. The real reason behind Valley firms’ reluctance to speak out against Donald Trump is more prosaic, and it has very little to do with Donald Trump.

Truth is, most Valley firms have shown themselves institutionally and pathologically averse to taking a stand, even against the ugliest rhetoric and behavior. We see this aversion play out every time Uber is caught hiring secret spies to smear its critics (or treats its female drivers like sex workers), or Secret builds a platform for bullying teenagers, or Tinder’s CEO threatens a female Vanity Fair journalist, or any one of a million Joe Tech Bros is revealed to be an ugly misogynist asshole. Suddenly most VCs have nothing to say (on the record, at least) about those same entrepreneurs who months earlier they were praising from the rooftops.

The reason: Very, very few firms will risk doing or saying anything that might, even remotely possibly, jeopardise their chances of getting in a future deal, even if that hypothetical deal involves the most ghastly, inhuman founder.  It was that fear of missing out on an asshole’s second act that rendered investors like Google Ventures and Index mute when it came to teenagers killing themselves on David Byttow’s Secret. And, sure enough, despite splurging his investors cash on sports cars while building (and imploding) an app that encouraged teen suicides, Byttow was still able to raise $1m for a new company from his old pals at Index.

See also Gurbaksh Chahal, the former CEO of RadiumOne, who was caught on camera beating his girlfriend, prompting Fortune’s Dan Primack to ask his investors what the hell they were playing at:

Why is Chahal still CEO? I called and emailed each of the VC board members yesterday to ask, but none of them responded. Do they honestly believe that this man could be brought on an IPO road-show? How do you convince prospective investors that they should trust their money to someone who has displayed such a gross violation of self-control and contempt for society’s moral boundaries? How do you continue to ask employees to work for such a person? At what point do they realize that their fiduciary duty and doing the right thing are one and the same?

We’d love to respond Dan, but ya just never know what the woman-beating psycho might do next. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, investors were working hard to get Chalal off the hook.

(In the interests of balance, I spent part of yesterday trawling back through CRV’s list of investments back to 1999 looking for Uber, or Secret, or Radium One, or Tinder or any of the other high profile tech-bro companies. I couldn’t find any - but take a look for yourself in case I’m missing a gotcha.)

CRV’s stance against Trump is remarkable precisely because it should be so unremarkable: Of all the issues that shouldn’t possibly affect deal flow, opposing Trump sits at the top of the heap. Are the other firms really worried that somewhere out there, the next Mark Zuckerberg is driving Trump signs into his lawn and demanding the construction of a big beautiful wall? 

But you never know, do you? And it’s a slippery slope from taking a firm-wide stance on a demagogue and having to weigh in on a portfolio founder gone rogue. I mean, are any of Trumps policies - the Muslim ban, the nuclear proliferation, the cosying up with Putin - really as terrifying as the prospect of being shut out of the next RadiumOne? Gotta be strategic about this!

Of course it’s entirely Sand Hill Road’s prerogative to remain a causeway of cowards (a thoroughfare of fraidycats?) But in that case they should really tone down the “pirates” and “disruptors” rhetoric. And, per Jorge Ramos, the rest of us should judge them for their silence.

We also shouldn’t be surprised, given most of them can’t even take an institutional stand against a fascist and a bigot, that most firms won’t do a damn thing about the worst excesses of tech bro behavior inside their own portfolio companies.

[* Disclosure: AH partner Marc Andreessen, Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Founders Fund are Pando investors.]