More and more seemingly unlikely supporters of US presidential candidate Donald Trump are emerging from the woodwork, and the most recent one hails from a region not known for populist extremism—Silicon Valley.
Peter Thiel, an entrepreneur and investor best known as the co-founder of Paypal, has pledged to be a Republican delegate for Trump in the upcoming California primary. The Sacramento Bee lists Thiel as one of 172 delegates.
Thiel is best known among the general public as the co-founder of Paypal, one of the world’s largest third-party online payment services. But his other ventures make him a giant in Silicon Valley. He co-founded Palantir, a big-data software company that is currently valued at $20 billion. It’s ranked as the fourth-largest private internet company in the world, behind AirBnB, Xiaomi, and Uber. He also was the first outside investor in Facebook, and has funded other high-profile startups like Spotify, Stripe, and SpaceX through Founders Fund, a venture capital firm he runs with Napster co-founder Sean Parker.
Thiel is also known for his views on politics and society, which diverge somewhat from the tech industry’s preference for liberal Democrats. His endeavors outside of traditional investing embody the extreme end of Silicon Valley’s peculiar mix of anti-establishment ethos and elitism. He created the Thiel Fellowship, which provides select individuals annual grants of $100,000 in order to drop out of college and pursue their interests. He also funded the Seasteading Institute, a project that intends to create a manmade, sovereign island where entrepreneurs can form businesses free of government interference.
A longtime libertarian, Thiel donated $2.6 million to Ron Paul’s super PAC in 2012. He also supports gay marriage (he himself is a homosexual) and medical marijuana use. But recently he has also supported more traditional Republicans. When asked by the Daily Caller (link to video) why he funded Ted Cruz’s 2012 senate campaign, he replied:
I think he’s very smart. I think one of the challenges we have in the Republican party is that our representatives or senators are somewhat lower IQ than the people on the other side. So I think there’s something to be said for having very smart people in there.
Despite his conservative politics, Thiel’s support for Trump nevertheless comes as unexpected. But he’s hardly the first public figure to surprise observers by supporting Trump. New Jersey governor and former presidential candidate Chris Christie endorsed the front-runner (perhaps as trade to get tapped as VP) despite bashing him in his Republican primary campaign. Jon Huntsman, a former Republican primary candidate best known for his moderate views, has also voiced support for Trump.