Silicon Valley's leaders usually do a good job finding things to agree on (regulations: bad; disruption: good; workplace diversity: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). But when it comes to campaign finance reform, the tech industry can't make up its damn mind. While Bay Area billionaires are financing super PACs focused on getting money out of politics, they're simultaneously spending millions on their favorite candidates and parties.
Here's a big shocker: PayPal, the early online payment processing service that made a batch of Silicon Valley legends, was founded by a team of psychopaths. Peter Thiel, a PayPal co-founder and early Facebook backer, reveals in his new book that four of the six members of "The PayPal Mafia" built bombs for kicks in high school.
The story of how a young programmer named Aaron Swartz convinced celebrated academic Lawrence Lessig that no political progress could be made without first reforming campaign finance is now part of Silicon Valley lore. In May, Lessig launched a radical initiative to address the issue: MAYDAY, a SuperPAC that secured funding from two Silicon Valley billionaires in order to curtail the influence of big money.
Forever is a mighty long time. Just ask Prince. But that's the lifespan that Quora thinks it scored by accepting $140 million in venture capital. According to Re/code, the Series C round values the 4-year-old, revenue-less Q&A site at $900 million, more than double the $400 million it was "worth" in 2012.
What if the perfect liquidity event for Silicon Valley was not a blockbuster IPO, or an acquisition that paid out at some insane multiple, but a literal exit from the United States of America? No more lumbering bureaucracies, no lobbying incumbents, no "petty" laws, no obstructionist unions. That's what a Stanford lecturer and genetics startup cofounder Balaji Srinivasan proposed at Y Combinator's annual startup school this weekend.
The world-changing aspirations of Twitter and Facebook are a drop in the bucket, a single bloom in an Arab Spring, compared to what former Palantir cofounder Joe Lonsdale wants to do with Formation 8, a venture capital firm that raised $448 million to modernize and disrupt all of Asia's power centers, basically. The leaked emails (below) show how Lonsdale intends to recruit engineers to his cause: by making them “feel special because they think they've been identified by technology [i.e. Palantir] that helped locate bin Laden.”
Larry Summers first public appearance since an "army of academic economists" quashed his bid for chair of the Federal Reserve, did not disappoint. At the Nantucket Project—New England's answer to Davos—Summers called Peter Thiel's scholarship to keep millennial entrepreneurs out of school "the single most misdirected bit of philanthropy this decade."
Villainous agri-corp Monsanto, known for playing God with your cornflakes and terrorizing small farmers, just locked down a big acquisition: TechCrunch reports it now owns Climate Corporation, a firm that specializes in "big data" weather prediction. Silicon Valley meets an episode of Captain Planet.
On Friday, the Seasteading Institute—a non-profit group cofounded by Peter Thiel and Patri Friedman (grandson to Ronald Reagan advisor Milton Friedman)—successfully closed its Indiegogo campaign to design “the world’s first floating city” for “pioneers who wish to demonstrate new ways of living together.”
No one knows what Palantir—named after a magical rock in Lord of The Rings that granted remote vision—exactly does. But we know enough to know it's not just another California startup. The secretive data-mining company works directly with the American government, has a product named "Prism," and some very close ties to Facebook, one of the NSA's top targets.