Most Cities Would Welcome a Tech Billionaire, But Peter Thiel?

(Bloomberg) -- Tech billionaire Peter Thiel is moving to Los Angeles from San Francisco, adding another dose of legitimacy to a burgeoning startup scene in Southern California-- along with some controversy.

The co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook Inc., Thiel runs Founders Fund, one of the more-respected venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. He comes with a little baggage, though, including his staunch support for President Donald Trump, his secretive funding of the legal battle between Hulk Hogan and Gawker.com, and comments some people say have been derogatory toward women.

“I’m not sure why Peter Thiel believes he’ll receive a warmer reception on the L.A. tech scene than he’s had in Silicon Valley,” said Tracy DiNunzio, chief executive officer of Tradesy, a fashion-reselling company based in Santa Monica, California. “Our venture and startup ecosystem is fairly left-leaning.”

Thiel’s exact reasons for moving aren’t known. In the past, he’s criticized Silicon Valley as being too insular and too expensive a place to start a business. He already owns a home in Los Angeles and is exploring the idea of starting a conservative news organization. Los Angeles, for all its high-profile Hollywood love for Democrats and liberal causes, is home to conservative media outlets such as Brietbart.com and Reason magazine.

About 22 percent of Los Angeles County voters supported Trump, more than double the vote percentage he received in San Francisco County. Los Angeles has produced some billion-dollar startups including Snap Inc., Dollar Shave Club and SpaceX, co-founded by Elon Musk, Thiel’s old partner at PayPal.

“L.A. is an ideal petri dish for exchanging unique ideas and differing perspectives and selling across a diverse range of target segments,” said Leah Volger, a vice president at Bonfire Ventures, which is based in the city. “Los Angeles has long been the city of dreams -- the home to those outliers looking to make it, and where creativity and a winning attitude thrive.”

Tradsey’s DiNunzio predicted Thiel would get a lukewarm reception from many women, who have interpreted some of his comments as anti-female, particularly those in a 2009 essay that touched on the extension of voting rights to women.

Others believe business, not politics, will rule the day.

“Peter’s pedigree as an investor is impressive,” said Ian Siegel, CEO of Santa Monica-based ZipRecruiter Inc. “He should fit right in.”

Last year, Los Angeles region nabbed 530 venture funding deals, about double a decade ago, according to the National Venture Capital Association. About $6.5 billion flowed into L.A. regional startups, compared with $2.2 billion a decade ago.

“Welcome to the neighborhood,” said Brogan BamBrogan, CEO of the hyperloop startup Arrivo, based just east of downtown. “I guess.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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