October 31, 2020
Hello and welcome to Pipeline. It's finally Halloween and that means no more October surprises — congrats on getting through one heck of a month. We're three days out from the presidential election, so this week: How tech folks spent their money, what Section 230 means for startups and the #ClubhouseChallenge.
(Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here to get it in your inbox.)
For better or worse, Greylock's Reid Hoffman may be seen as the face of political donations from Silicon Valley, but he's far from the only investor or founder to be playing an active role in the 2020 election cycle. While last week's Pipeline focused on what will happen to startup funding with the election, this week, let's take a look at who is funding the election itself.
On to the other donors (outside of Hoffman) you should know:
Karla Jurvetson: A surprise megadonor of the 2020 cycle is the ex-wife of DFJ founder Steve Jurvetson. The psychiatrist is a top 10 giver in America this election cycle, according to the CRP. She donated millions to support Elizabeth Warren's candidacy early in the race and more recently has been spending millions to support Democrats in state legislative races.
Jessica Livingston, Y Combinator: She's in the top 60 donors in the country this election cycle, according to the CRP. The co-founder of Y Combinator has given most of her money to Tech for Campaigns, a group once called the "Democratic Geek Squad." In September, her husband, Paul Graham, tweeted that the couple had donated more to defeating Trump than to any other cause: "Which sucks. As in literally sucks huge amounts of money away from important problems. This is a hidden but very significant cost of increasing polarization."
Mike Moritz and Doug Leone, Sequoia: The firm dynamics inside Sequoia are something to keep an eye on as we go through the election.
Rob Stavis, Bessemer: Despite being one of the top 100 donors in the country this cycle, the New York-based partner at Bessemer maintains a relatively low profile in terms of his giving. While he describes himself as a "moderate," Stavis has supported Democratic causes, including big checks to the Senate Majority PAC and Forward Majority Action, and smaller ones to groups like the Democratic Party of Arizona. In a 2018 interview with Recode on his giving for the midterm cycle, he said his "political awakening" was spurred after Trump was first nominated.
Of course, this is just a snapshot of some of the biggest donors with ties to the venture community. Many politically active investors have continued their support of Democrats, including SV Angel's Ron Conway, Khosla Ventures' Vinod Khosla and angel investor Chris Sacca. Founders Fund's Peter Thiel has continued to donate money to Republicans, but he's toned down his support for Trump.
The question is whether all this money spent will have the return on investment these VCs are seeking. So far, some big bets, like millions plowed into data firm Alloy, have yet to find product-market fit. We'll see on Tuesday (or in the weeks thereafter) if the money is well spent.
Energy companies have a tricky problem to solve. They need to defend interconnected infrastructure from cyberattacks that can cause real-world damage. Learn more about energy sector's readiness to address this growing spectrum of cyberattacks.
Upfront's Kara Nortman was promoted this week to co-managing partner of the LA-based firm. Outside of her investments in companies like Fleetsmith and Parachute Home, Nortman is also one of the co-founders of nonprofit All Raise and LA women's soccer team Angel City.
What product or service are you totally, even irrationally, loyal to?
It's not an obscure product — it's my Apple AairPods. My kids literally refer to them as my "fourth child." They play a large role in my joy and happiness, because my day is spent primarily talking to people (and occasionally listening to podcasts or music). I know I'm irrationally loyal because let's just say I lose them a lot, and I have to choose to buy them again; I'm on my fourth or fifth pair.
What's one startup or product that failed or was shut down that you wish was still here today?
Believe it or not, I miss SETI@home, which I used as my screensaver in the early 2000s. It took unutilized compute power from volunteer computers to analyze radio signals, looking for extraterrestrial intelligence. I was a bit of a space nerd as a kid; I actually competed in debate tournaments with a speech on the search for extraterrestrial life. So I've always just loved thinking that there's life beyond us, and I wanted to participate in finding it.
What's a secret obsession of yours that most people don't know about?
Other than the search for ETs? I'm the wrong person to ask because if I have an obsession, it quickly becomes very loud. This is actually what led to the starting of Angel City FC, because I was talking about my secret obsession with women's soccer after the 2015 World Cup to anyone who would listen, and it went from an obsession to a reality.
More secretly, I was a huge "Game of Thrones" fan, as many of us were, but it was such an obsession that I used to joke that if I weren't in venture capital, I should become a professor teaching the history of certain regions through the lens of "Game of Thrones," the characters and fiefdoms. I would watch until about midnight with my husband, and then when he went to sleep, I would spend hours on fan forums and Wikis.
New TV obsession? "Ted Lasso."
What problem do you want to see a startup solve?
I spend my time heavily focused on cybersecurity and dev ops, mostly in the enterprise space, and I really want a startup to help make a safer and more secure consumer internet. Not just from a "not getting hacked" perspective, which is deeply interesting, but getting people back to understanding what is true, what is fake, and how we can feel comfortable participating as who we are in the real world. I would love to see democracy, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness solved on the internet — talk about a trillion-dollar opportunity! I think we can start simply by building different moderation tools to protect people from a technology standpoint as well as a "comfort in the environment" standpoint.
Who is somebody in tech you've never met, but would love to have dinner with?
True story: I have a recurring reminder on my calendar that says, "Oprah, Musk, Bezos," meant to remind me that if this meeting actually happened, what would I want to talk to them about? It's there to remind me that as a VC, I should spend my day on the important things, which to me means helping founders and finding inspiring founders who want to solve really big problems. (I've only met one of them, BTW.)
I'd also love to have dinner with Mellody Hobson or Mackenzie Scott, both of whom greatly inspire me with their authentic points of view and powerful way of conveying how to drive impact around important issues, and to inspire more capitalists to perhaps approach philanthropy differently. I think they're just incredible. They also both happened to go to my alma mater, Princeton University, so I have always felt some sort of cosmic connection to them. Whether they have felt it to me is a different story!
[Biz's note: Mellody Hobson gave one of my favorite talks I've ever seen at a tech conference at the Upfront Summit in 2019. It's worth listening, but particularly her thoughts on tying diversity to compensation at the 26:00 mark.]
Thanks for reading this week's Protocol Pipeline. Don't forget to go vote! And when you're done, you can switch to voting on whether a fridge belongs to a Trump supporter or a Biden supporter.
If you like what you're reading, sign up here to get it in your inbox. Send story tips and newsletter feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.