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When news broke this weekend about billionaire Peter Thiel’s donation to the Donald Trump presidential campaign, David Heinemeier Hansson (@dhh) – the creator of Ruby on Rails – Marco Arment – the co-founder of Tumblr – and others challenged the startup accelerator Y Combinator about the organization’s ongoing relationship with Peter Thiel. (Here is Arment’s blog post.) Paul Graham, the organization’s founder responded by calling @dhh a troll (then deleting that tweet) then insisted that “Few have done more than Sam Altman to defeat Trump.” Y Combinator’s current head Sam Altman responded, refusing to sever ties with Thiel and framing that decision as something undertaken in the service of “diversity.”

Considering how the tech industry frames the absence of women and people of color as a “pipeline” issue (that is, not the industry's fault), considering how it’s been unable (and unwilling) to address “diversity” in its ranks, Y Combinator’s response here is insulting.

Project Include, an organization that advocates for women and people of color in technology, has announced it would break off its relationship with Y Combinator. Backstage Capital’s Arlan Hamilton, a fund that focuses female, minority, and LGBT entrepreneurs, tweeted that she would no longer recommend startups apply to Y Combinator.

I wrote a long piece about Peter Thiel and the future of education technology. In it, I listed the education companies that have received funding from Thiel and his venture capital firm:

  • Knewton
  • Declara
  • AltSchool
  • Thinkful
  • Clever
  • Uversity
  • ResearchGate
  • Lore
  • If You Can
  • SoFi
  • Upstart
  • Affirm

Here is some more data. A list of the education companies that Y Combinator (and founder Paul Graham) have invested in:

  • Codecademy
  • Clever
  • ClassDojo
  • Launchpad Toys
  • Tutorspree
  • Verbling
  • Knowmia
  • CodeCombat
  • Experiment
  • IXI-Play
  • One Month
  • Panorama Education
  • CodeNow
  • Cribspot
  • Platzi
  • WayUp

In 2015, Y Combinator acquired ImagineK12, a startup accelerator program that was aimed at education companies. Here are the companies that have raised funding from ImagineK12:

  • Edsurge
  • Remind
  • ClassDojo
  • NoRedInk
  • Bloomboard
  • Education Elements
  • Educreations
  • Eduvant
  • Goalbook
  • Nunook Interactive
  • Blendspace
  • CodeHS
  • DigitWhiz
  • Raise.me
  • Studyroom
  • Teachboost
  • Hapara
  • Kaizena
  • Learnsprout
  • Securly
  • Showbie
  • Socrative
  • AdmitSee
  • Front Row
  • Panorama Education
  • SchoolMint
  • Classkick
  • Educents
  • Showbie

I would recommend educators ask these companies their thoughts on their investors’ relationship to Thiel. Will they continue to work with Y Combinator or ImagineK12? Will they work with Thiel? Will they continue to take money from these organizations? Can they reconcile working in education with these investors and organizations’ political beliefs about educators, unions, people of color, women? Why should we trust these education companies if their funding comes from Thiel and his associates? Why should we trust them if they are silent now?

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Audrey Watters


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