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Election 2016

Why It's Almost Impossible To Boycott Peter Thiel

Amid reports that the billionaire plans to donate $1.25 million to Donald Trump, many threatened to boycott PayPal, which he cofounded.

Why It's Almost Impossible To Boycott Peter Thiel

[Photo: Kevin Moloney/Fortune Brainstorm Tech]

Amid reports that billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel plans to donate $1.25 million to the Donald Trump campaign, many threatened to boycott PayPal, the company Thiel is famous for cofounding.

But Thiel, who gave a speech in support of Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, does not have any current affiliation with PayPal. He left the company when it was sold to eBay in 2002 (it has since spun off). And he's not even a major shareholder.

Boycotting Thiel’s interests, especially if you were to include investments made by venture capital firms in which he is a partner, would be much more difficult than just canceling one account. If a protester wanted to make absolutely sure that they were not directly or indirectly benefiting Thiel, they'd need to quit Facebook, avoid making transactions using credit card processor Stripe, stop listening to Spotify, carry a list of thousands of Y Combinator companies, and move somewhere other than the United States (without booking an Airbnb). Because Thiel is deeply tied to many of Silicon Valley's most popular products:

Facebook: Thiel was the company’s first outside investor. Though he unloaded most of his Facebook stock in 2012, he’s still a major stakeholder in the company and sits on its board.

Founders Fund companies: Founders Fund, the venture capital fund that Thiel cofounded, has invested in more than more than 150 companies. It led a $200 million round for Airbnb in 2012, and has also funded Spotify, ZocDoc, and Lyft. It has a stake in Asana, which many offices use to coordinate projects, and Stripe, a credit card processor used by Twitter, Kickstarter, Shopify, Salesforce, Lyft, Blue Apron, Adidas, OpenTable, Best Buy and "thousands of businesses." And NPR.

Y Combinator companies: Thiel is a part-time partner at the incubator, which takes a stake in young companies in exchange for its mentorship program. Y Combinator has thousands of alumni companies. Its president, Sam Altman, has said that he will not fire Thiel[/url], and that cutting ties with opposing views leads to extremism.

Palantir: Thiel is the cofounder and chairman of the company, which has sold shares at a $20 billion valuation. Not much to boycott here, though—Palantir makes data analysis software that it sells to customers like the FBI. Which means, of course, that even if you somehow manage to avoid patronizing businesses that directly or indirectly make Thiel richer, you won’t be able to say the same for how your tax dollars are spent.

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