Oct 4, 2016 · 6 minutes

With just 34 days to go, Union Square Ventures has become only the second high profile venture firm to take a firm-wide stand -- on the Presidential election. This morning it endorsed Hillary Clinton.

USV didn’t take the same dramatic, in-your-face approach of CRV’s “F*ck Trump” missive. It wasn’t blasted on USV’s homepage, rather at the top of its blog. But the language was the kind of clear, unequivocal stance you’d expect from a firm built and lead by the outspoken Fred Wilson.

Of the two major party candidates, we believe that only Hillary Clinton has the temperament and experience to lead us at home and represent us abroad.

USV points out that this is the first time in four elections it has ever felt the need to “endorse” a candidate.

The reasons why any VC would take this stance should be obvious: For one, immigration is central to the startup ecosystem functioning and immigrant entrepreneurs have created some of tech’s most iconic companies.

Also, this is an industry deep in its own battle for gender equality-- with “bros” like Travis “Boober” Kalanick on one side and Ellen Pao taking a stand against the microaggressions most women suffer on a daily basis on the other. The uproar to John Greathouse’s brain dead post suggesting women obscure their gender is-- I hope-- evidence that a lot of the industry doesn’t want us to go farther over to the bro side of the equation.

Put another way: With everyone in the industry wanting to look more gender neutral, a public firm-wide endorsement of the candidate the entire partnership is personally supporting anyway would seem an easy stance.

And then there is what Donald Trump stands for as “a businessman.” Sure, he has “hacked” the tax system in a way some bro’s would fist-bump if Kalanick or other disrupters did it. But it’s hard to imagine VCs want to back his particular style of business “genius” given all those talking points of building something lasting and enduring and doing it “the right way.” Again, this would seem to be an easy marketing “this is what we stand for” win.

Lastly, there’s the point that Clinton is again up in the polls. So taking a courageous stance is less likely to have a downside risk when it comes to retaliation from a Trump administration. At most, it risks awkward New York society events, with the likes of the Kushners. But that’s likely already been the case.

But interestingly, the post argued a more nuanced tact than others like CRV or Reid Hoffman have. USV acknowledges that the riches unevenly created from tech are part of the reason we are in this mess. From the piece:

As investors in technology companies, we believe that technology and innovation create broad opportunity and improve lives. But we also know that, to date, the benefits of technology and globalization have not been evenly distributed. People with access to education and capital have prospered while many others have seen good jobs lost to automation or offshoring.

This is to say nothing of all those in the “Sharing economy” who have little control over what they can charge or how they work despite promises of “being your own boss.” And the fact that the largest sharing economy companies-- Uber and Lyft- are super-pumped to destroy all those jobs -- er, “economic opportunities” -- in coming years.

USV continues:

We understand why people whose lives have been upended are frustrated by politicians who squabble for partisan advantage instead of developing consensus solutions. We are not surprised that many feel the urge to reboot the whole system.

We agree that more of the same is not the answer….

...Shutting out the world is not an option. We don’t think it’s desirable, or even possible, to return to an earlier era when America was less diverse, or the economy was less global. There is no wall big enough to protect us from a changing climate or the unintended consequences of new technologies like artificial intelligence or DNA manipulation. Now, more than ever, we must work together. We cannot unilaterally set the rules for the other seven billion people on the planet. The only way forward is through an open, respectful, and rational dialogue grounded in science.

In some ways it’s a more rational and less emotional appeal than we’ve seen from CRV or Hoffman.

USV also critiqued the rhetoric coming from the electorate, saying at the end of the piece it believes a “protest vote is a wasted vote” and linking to a Clay Shirky post called “There’s no such thing as a protest vote.” One of the best bits in that piece is the emphasis on the difference between “sending a message” and a message getting “received”:

But it doesn’t matter what message you think you are sending, because no one will receive it. No one is listening. The system is set up so that every choice other than ‘R’ or ‘D’ boils down to “I defer to the judgement of my fellow citizens.” It’s easy to argue that our system shouldn’t work like that. It’s impossible to argue it doesn’t work like that…

...Throwing away your vote on a message no one will hear, and which will change no outcome, is sometimes presented as ‘voting your conscience’, but that’s got it exactly backwards; your conscience is what keeps you from doing things that feel good to you but hurt other people. Citizens who vote for third-party candidates, write-in candidates, or nobody aren’t voting their conscience, they are voting their ego, unable to accept that a system they find personally disheartening actually applies to them…

...Noisily opting out as a way of demonstrating your pique is an understandable human act. It’s just not a political act. It’s an elaborate way of making the rest of us do the work of deciding.

Now you can argue whether an endorsement from a handful of rich men matters much. The bulk of Union Square Ventures portfolio companies and those who would like to be are concentrated in California and New York, two states that aren’t in danger of going red.

But the fact that it’s only the second firm to take this stance shows that it is-- by definition-- a sign of courage, no matter how rationally worded and unemotional the appeal may be. If VCs indeed like to follow a pack, they must be noting now that two firms is a trend. Between Dustin Moskovitz and Reid Hoffman, there’s a two-billionaire trend too. With 34 days to go, Trump slumping in the polls and less and less to lose in retaliation, will more find a sudden shot of courage?