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Silicon Valley still accepts Saudi Arabia’s money despite murder of Jamal Khashoggi

Silicon Valley still accepts Saudi Arabia’s money despite murder of Jamal Khashoggi
[Photos: Sean Patrick Murphy/Unsplash; Etereuti/Pixabay]

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs love to talk a big game, but when it comes to actually practicing what they preach, they often fall flat. We’re seeing this firsthand with the aftermath of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

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The Turkish government claims that Saudi Arabia was almost certainly behind the journalist’s killing, but despite this claim, investment deals from the Middle Eastern country’s vast wealth continue to flow into the American tech sector.

Here are three salient examples, cited from The Wall Street Journal:

  • Startups View Inc. and Zume Inc. have both recently accepted a combined $1.5 billion in funding from SoftBank’s Vision Fund, which is backed by the Saudi Arabian government.
  • Another Silicon Valley-based company, Katerra Inc., just agreed to a tentative deal to build housing in Saudi Arabia.
  • WeWork is reportedly in continued talks with SoftBank about investing $15 billion to $20 billion, to acquire a majority stake of the company.

This follows weeks of questions being asked of top Silicon Valley companies about their potential involvement with Saudi money, with most of these questions being met with silence. The situation is surely uncomfortable, as Saudi Arabia has become “the largest funder of U.S. startups in recent years,” according to the Journal.

For an industry known to produce companies with values like “don’t be evil,” the Saudi-money dilemma offers a real-world test. And it’s becoming abundantly clear that the technology industry, despite its predilection for espousing those lofty principles, is widely choosing money over morals.

I reached out to all the companies for comment and will update this post if I hear back. You can read the Journal‘s write-up here.

Update: Zume provided me with the following statement from its Chairman and CEO, Alex Garden: “We’ve recently closed a round of funding to support our growth and hiring.” The company would not confirm if the funding came from SoftBank.

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