Please let YCombinator, Sam Altman and Paul Graham be
I know what you’re thinking. I know that many of you are probably too angry to even consider reading anything with that title. I beg of you to read on and promise you that I will attempt to shield you from further negativity.
I seriously considered linking the tweets of Marco, dhh, Erica Joy and Pinboard among others here to make my point. However, I do not wish to add to the negativity in your lives. In view of fairness, I will also not link to Sam Altman or Paul Graham’s tweets or any of the blog posts written by either side. You can find them easily if you haven’t already read them.
The basic problem seems to be this: Sam Altman and Ycombinator have been against Trump and all that he represents. Peter Thiel, who happens to be a part-time partner at YCombinator, is a Trump supporter (surrogate?) who has donated north of a Million dollars to Trump’s campaign. There is, now, a large army of people angry at Sam Altman and Ycombinator for refusing to fire Thiel from his part-time partner position at Ycombinator.
A brief introduction of myself and my stances before I begin. I will attempt to be logical and objective, but if you find any traces of a bias or ignorance it is probably because of who I am and where I come from. Forgive me. I am an Indian citizen who happens to be a startup founder. A large chunk of my family and several of my friends consider the United States of America their home. Several of them are citizens who will be voting during the upcoming elections. I have not yet set foot on American soil and my understanding of American politics and the people involved is limited to what I see on TV and what I read on social media. I happen to look up to people at YC and several of the people who are now angry at YC as well. Especially dhh. I loved his book — Rework. As far as the candidates themselves are concerned, I am disgusted by how perverted Trump is and at the same time scared for what will happen to several nations such as mine if and when Hillary Clinton becomes POTUS. American Presidents never really rule just one nation. They often dictate ongoings in several nations. So, while you Americans have a choice albeit a bad one — the rest of the world is even more powerless. We must live with whoever you choose and the consequences that come along.
I will now lay before you seven statements which I consider the truth. If you do not believe in these truths, then your bias is what is keeping you from being objective. I will attempt to understand you because I know what politics and religion can do to people’s minds, but I cannot promise it.
- Sam Altman and Paul Graham absolutely despise Donald Trump and everything he stands for. They have taken a very public stand on the topic.
- Sam Altman and YC have invested a considerable amount of time, money and effort into ensuring that Hillary Clinton becomes the next President of the United States of America.
- Sam Altman and YC have always promoted diversity, equal opportunity and fairness.
- Peter Thiel has very little or no control over how YC works. He is not paid to do what he does at YC.
- Hillary Clinton is not a saint. Several of her supporters are aware of her flaws. However, she is, in their opinion, the lesser of two evils by many a mile.
- It is possible to support a person while acknowledging their flaws and hating some of their traits.
- Sam Altman and YC will not blink twice before firing Thiel or any other person associated with them if said persons were found guilty of the reprehensible behaviour Trump is.
Now that we have all of that cleared up, time for you to answer some questions. If you are one of the people who is absolutely against Trump and is now angry at YC for not firing Thiel, would you consider voting for Trump if you were paid 1.25 Million dollars? If yes, then you don’t really believe in your cause. If your answer to the question is a resounding ‘No’ then you must agree that one vote is more valuable than 1.25 Million dollars in this case. It is after all a question of your country’s future.
Now, let us assume that you are right and that Thiel paying Trump’s campaign 1.25 Million dollars makes him deserve being fired from his position. Since we have now proven that a single vote is more valuable than the money, everyone who votes for Trump too is as guilty as Thiel or perhaps more guilty. At this point, some of you are probably going “I don’t agree. Votes and money — Apples and oranges.” I come from a country where votes are bought, my friends. This probably happens in the US too I’m sure, but it is just masked as something else. However, I will indulge you and say it is ok if you think a vote is not comparable to money. We can all agree though that voting for Trump does exactly what Thiel’s money does — it makes Trump one step closer to becoming the POTUS.
With me so far? Good. I know that the possibility is low, but what if one of the several employees of YC (or any other organization which is publicly against Trump) ends up voting for Trump. As far as I know, no one will know who you voted for unless you tell them later will they? These hypothetical people who voted for Trump. They will continue to work for YC despite having committed a huge blunder. In this hypothetical scenario, Peter Thiel got fired merely because his support of Trump was public while our hypothetical criminal got away because he did not utter a single word to anyone and voted for Trump silently. How can YC avoid this? Simple! Let’s get YC to make everyone swear on whatever they deem holy and let everyone know who they voted for. This way, we’ll know that all the employees of YC are on the same page and hate Trump. We can oust the Trump voters. However, employees are not the only people who are associated with YC. What about the thousands of founders? Ycombinator owns a piece of those companies and is responsible for them. How can we allow Ycombinator to let Trump supporters enter any of the YC programs? The application form has not been updated or edited in a while, but I’m sure if enough of us apply pressure we can get YC to add a question of two about which of the presidential candidates they support. So what if several YC founders aren’t from the US, let’s ask them anyway. We do not want people who would consider supporting that vile human being we all hate.
Do you see where I am going with this? Imagine a scenario in which companies that are against Mrs Clinton do the same. Diversity in political opinion is diversity too. You can come at me with all your “This is different” and “Trump is the worst human being ever to walk planet Earth.” arguments. The fact remains that freedom of speech is important and part of that is acknowledging the fact that while you may be right in your reality, someone else’s reality sees your opinion as wrong. Attempt to talk to the people who are wrong, by all means — however, directly firing them for a choice they made when they were handed a bad set of options to begin with is uncalled for. Did you gasp at that? I understand. I pointed out in advance that Hillary Clinton is not a saint, didn’t I? Would you choose 4 more years of Barack Obama over her? Yes? No? How about Michelle Obama? What if she ran for President? What about Oprah Winfrey? What if Kanye West runs for President tomorrow? If you said “yes” to any of those options or if you can think of even one more person who may have a chance at winning your vote — it proves the choice is not always obvious. To you, between Clinton and Trump — the choice may be obvious. To someone else, the choice may not be very obvious. If you want to change the system and make your country a better version of itself, work on discovering, encouraging and grooming better leaders. Let there be an election a few years from now when you will be faced with a tough choice. An election where both the candidates are just stellar human beings. Let your vote be decided on the policies they support. You currently live in a country where most of you do not vote ‘for Clinton’ or ‘for Trump.’ You cast your vote to keep one of them out of the White House.
I do not know if it is my place to tell you this, but if you want to live in a country that has a better set of leaders to choose from — you will have to be inclusive. Inclusive in terms of race, colour, language, culture, faith, gender, age, sexual orientation and even political inclination. So, please invest your time, energy and money into building a country, nay - world that follows Paul Graham’s rule zero — “Make something people want.”