SCOTTSDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 14: Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Blake Masters take a selfie with an audience member after the America the Great tour panel discussion hosted by Heritage Action for America at the Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch on October 14, 2022 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Sen. Graham visited Arizona in support of Masters bid for senate. (Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)
Photo: Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

Blake Masters, J.D. Vance campaigns benefit from VC ties

Protocol Pipeline

Hello, and welcome to Pipeline. I’m Biz Carson, and this weekend I’ll be dressing up as Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” to take my daughter trick-or-treating for the first time. If you need a Halloween costume idea, I’ve included a few I overheard below.

This week in the startup world: investors are quiet quitting, the “Justice League of Security” forms a startup, and investors back their friends running for Senate.

‘Friends and family rounds’ come for politics

In a few weeks, two former venture capitalists, Blake Masters and J.D. Vance, will be on the ballot to run for the Senate. This isn’t necessarily the win you’d think for the venture industry, since neither have really made venture-friendly policies a main part of their platform or their political identities. But that hasn’t stopped the money flowing from Silicon Valley in support of their candidacies.

Both Vance and Masters are receiving donations from their old co-workers in venture capital. Call it a “friends and family round” but for politics.

  • Masters is the former president of the Thiel Foundation, COO of Thiel Capital, and co-author with Peter Thiel of “Zero to One,” so it’s not too surprising to see that he gets a lot of individual support from those in Thiel’s orbit. Masters has received donations from many Founders Fund and Thiel Capital employees, along with well-known Thiel friends Keith Rabois, Joe Lonsdale, and David Sacks. He’s also attracted donations from other techies like Figma’s Dylan Field (a Thiel Fellow), Kraken’s Jesse Powell, Intercom co-founder Eoghan McCabe, Tribe Capital’s Arjun Sethi, and Atomic’s Jack Abraham.
  • Vance is another Thiel acolyte who worked for Thiel Capital and then Steve Case’s Rise of The Rest fund before starting Narya Capital. He hasn’t drawn the same depth of support as Masters has from his former employers, but donors do include Eventbrite co-founder Kevin Hartz, former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and former Facebook GC Ted Ullyot. A few folks like Thiel, Sacks, and Kraken’s founder Powell donated to both.

But to actually advance their VC interests, investors are putting their money elsewhere. My colleagues Ben Brody and AJ Caughey worked with the Center for Responsive Politics (the keepers of, which is where I got the above data) to track some favorite money spots for Silicon Valley power brokers.

  • “In general, the DNC is still pulling in the biggest totals from Silicon Valley, followed mostly (but not exclusively!) by Democratic candidates and groups,” Ben told me. “There seems to be interest, though, in these specialized groups that are either promoting politically adjacent causes (like abortion rights) or that want to get a particular type of candidate into office, like DigiDems, which raises money to pay the salaries of tech staffers for Dem campaigns.”
  • Reid Hoffman and his wife Michelle Yee donated repeatedly to the DigiDems group, but it also attracted money from investors like Ron Conway and Chris Saccheri, LinkedIn’s original web developer. “Tech talent’s expensive,” said Kane Miller, the executive director of DigiDems. “These are folks with skills who command higher salaries in the private sector than what we are accustomed to paying in political campaigns.”
  • Not to be left out, the National Venture Capital Association’s PAC is smaller in comparison to others, but it attracted more than $350,000 with 83 donations from a who’s-who list of VCs in the Bay Area. Sequoia’s Roelof Botha, Doug Leone, and Bill Coughran all donated, along with KPCB founder Brook Byers and Kirsten Green of Forerunner.
  • Bigger checks went to more of the tech industry’s passion causes. A favorite was bipartisan crypto PAC GMI, which saw million-dollar checks from Marc Andreessen, Ben Horowitz, and FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried.

VCs might not take a “spray and pray” approach to investing, but it’s clear that they’re more willing to distribute their money across many causes and candidates when it comes to electioneering.

For more on how tech’s political giving is trying to bring us more tech, check out Ben and AJ’s story here.


“I've never seen VCs make a bigger mistake than generative AI.” ScienceIO founder Will Manidis thinks VCs are about to repeat the mistakes of Web3 and the creator economy by focusing on funding art creation startups and ignoring the impact that it could have on menial data entry jobs: “You will not generate large enterprise value by making everyone a ‘creator.’ Giving everyone in the world the ability to generate Picasso paintings is worth very little.”

VCs are the latest to be “quiet quitting.” Perhaps it’s the end of generational transition at VC firms as we know it, but Bloomberg Beta’s Roy Bahat mused on Twitter that there’s a lot of VCs quietly stepping back after big exits and no longer doing deals: “Maybe because they got rich, or moved away thinking they could stay current without putting in the sweat, built firms so big they spend all their time managing, or see making new investments as beneath them. Maybe because it's hard to start a new journey with a startup that will probably be worth zero (as most are!) when you got spoiled by a megaexit. Maybe it's the fear that it was just luck in the last cycle, and continuing to work at it might reveal that. Get out while they think it was skill...” The litmus test Bahat suggests is to ask a VC when their last deal was — the answer may be telling.

Wealth management or a diaper brand? I wasn’t the only one confused when I saw that (The) Coterie had raised $50 million.

If you’re in need of Halloween costume ideas, the viral Spirit Halloween costume meme provided plenty of fodder. There’s the venture capitalist who has both Brex and Ramp cards, the AI investor who comes with a Substack account, and the unemployed CEO with a $45 million severance package. And while you’re at it, perhaps check your kids’ Nestle 100 Grand bars for an offer letter from a16z.


The world is rapidly changing; the scales are imbalanced, and many are feeling the effects. SLB is committed to helping deliver the world’s greatest balancing act—enabling secure, accessible, sustainable energy to meet growing demand.

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Inside track

“Let’s kill the story” exists in shows like Scandal, but the reality of comms is that there are only a few scenarios where you could actually stop a story, says Robinhood’s former PR chief Jack Randall in an interview with Sar Haribhakti on demystifying what good comms does.

If you were thinking of fundraising, you should start now, warns Hustle Fund’s Elizabeth Yin as investors are quickly approaching “the dead zone” at the end of the year.

Is that growth spike a sign of genuine product-market fit? Or is it just the result of market disruption, or worse, plain old hype? Maverix’s Helen Zhang breaks down how to tell these startup-boosting phenomena apart.

Need to know

You couldn’t have missed Elon Musk taking over Twitter, but it’s not only his money that went into the deal. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao confirmed that his company also wired $500 million before the deal closed.

There was an IPO this week. And it popped! Mobileye’s return to the market was embraced by investors who sent it up 37% on opening.

Argo AI reached the end of the road. In a shocking closure for the self-driving industry, the Ford- and VW-backed startup announced it was shutting down.

A16z’s crypto fund is reportedly down 40% in the first half of this year, according to the Journal. It’s betting on having a “very long-term horizon,” partner Chris Dixon said.

From Protocol: Have you ever bought a coffee at a café and then suddenly get nonstop emails from them? Square is selling access to your inbox, and no one seems to know if the law cares.

Also from Protocol: Tools for securing the software supply chain have flooded into the market in the wake of the SolarWinds breach. Led by a team of ex-Googlers nicknamed the “Justice League of Security,” Chainguard is taking a different approach from the rest.

Your weekend reading: GoPuff was the startup that was supposed to have figured out instant delivery. After a crazy pandemic and runaway valuations, the legacy of looms large as its founders are now trying to make the business work, or, as Bloomberg questions, “if the billions poured into it are destined to simply gopoof.”


Our planet needs balance to thrive; for the climate, for people, and for nature. Together, we will pave the way to a balanced planet through better practices, innovative technology, and the commitment to help others on their journey across the globe.

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