The Right Geeks To Fill The GOP’s Tech Void

To bridge the tech talent gap, 2016 GOP hopefuls might want to pay attention to these Republican tech heavyweights.

The Right Geeks To Fill The GOP’s Tech Void

Silicon Valley has long had a reputation as a Democrat’s haven, and it’s got the percentage points to prove it. In Nate Silver’s recent FiveThirtyEight breakdown of the numbers, President Obama won 84% of the San Francisco vote. That’s a staggeringly large percentage, but more importantly, Silver writes, is that Democrats’ strength in the Bay Area is closely entwined with the area’s exploding tech industry growth. And as political campaigns become increasingly tech-driven, that close relationship could pose a threat to future GOP campaigns.

Marc Andreessen

But, as Silver points out, even if only 10% to 20% of tech employees at “elite” companies–think Apple, Google, Microsoft, Intel–would consider working for a Republican politician, that’s a significant talent pool. No doubt several 2016 GOP hopefuls will look to make inroads into the tech scene, in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, but they’ll have to know where to look. Here are some likely havens.

Valley star investor Marc Andreessen, of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, makes a living meeting and greeting and investing in rising tech talent. Many of the Valley’s best-known tech companies, such as Airbnb, Instagram, Pinterest, and Box, are in Andreessen Horowitz’s investment portfolio. Andreessen isn’t an avowed Republican–he donated to the Obama campaign in 2008–but in the 2012 election he backed Mitt Romney with a $100,000 donation to the Restore Our Future SuperPAC.

Peter Thiel

Facebook investor Peter Thiel is another Valley heavyweight who’s invested a lot of money in burgeoning tech entrepreneurs. Of particular importance to Thiel, a Libertarian, are students and scientists, through the Thiel Fellowship, which offers $100,000 and mentorship to college-age entrepreneurs, and Breakout Labs, which grants up to $350,000 to entrepreneurial scientists. Reviving the Republican party in a tech-savvy way could be right in Thiel’s wheelhouse.

On the Hill, there’s Google’s VP of Public Policy Susan Molinari, who was once the highest-ranked Republican Congresswoman. This year Google, which has long had a left-leaning reputation, hired Molinari to liaise with D.C. lawmakers and regulators.

Meg Whitman

And then there are the heads of multinational tech corporations with thousands of engineers, such as Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, HP’s Meg Whitman (a former Republican candidate for California governor), and Intel CEO Paul Otellini, all of whom, not unlike the politicians they’ve supported, are trying to find places for their companies in a rapidly changing industry.

There’s also a healthy crop of publicly right-leaning luminaries that pepper the politically minded startup scene, such as Thumbtack cofounder Jonathan Swanson, a former White House staffer during the George W. Bush administration. And Vince Sollitto, Yelp‘s VP of communications who worked for former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, has told Politico that a demonstrated interest in issues such as education, taxation, and reducing barriers to innovation, regardless of party lines, “is what makes Silicon Valley go.”


We’re also guessing you know a right-leaning tech geek or two. Your nominees to build the GOP’s next tech strategy are welcome in the comments section.

[Image: Flickr user Ho John Lee]

About the author

Christina is an associate editor at Fast Company, where she writes about technology, social media, and business.