Conservative capitalists are funding their vision of the future

Given the political climate and Peter Thiel’s political views, it initially seemed ironic that Thiel Capital chose now as the ideal time to back 28, a self-described “femtech” company that offers fitness and wellness recommendations based on the phases of one’s menstrual cycle.

Then, you start to do the math.

Thiel is known for having quite right-leaning interests and has poured money into PACs supporting the Senate campaigns of various populist Republicans. For example, early last year, he gave $10 million to a PAC supporting J.D. Vance’s run for an Ohio Senate seat. Vance infamously compared abortion to slavery.

Thiel also backed Blake Masters, a Trump-endorsed Senate candidate from Arizona whose website once stated he was completely pro-life and supported “a federal personhood law that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may not be killed.” The entry has since been deleted, NBC News reported. Vance and Masters are former venture capitalists who won their respective Republican primaries. Both are backed by Thiel (although that support seems to be waning.)

“The potential of innovation in the private sector is limitless, but so is the potential to do harm.” Olivia DeRamus, founder, Communia

Then you look at 28, an offshoot of Evie magazine. (A representative for Evie told TechCrunch that 28 and Evie are two separate entities and function as such, stating that the Thiel Capital investment was solely in the former rather than the latter. It should be noted, however, that 28’s website name was “28 by Evie,” and now redirects to Evie is a publication that claims to focus on affirming femininity without the “biased agenda” of other publications.

That itself is coded transphobic language seeking to exclude trans women from the definition of femininity, a fact underscored by Evie publishing a story that pondered whether “the trans debate [is] a cause of the rise in mental health issues in women.” Furthermore, the publication’s thoughts on abortion rights include writing that, for instance, “abortion is the intentional ending of a human being in the womb, and that’s never medically necessary.”

Though it’s clear 28 is now aiming to distance itself from Evie, the version of the startup with ties to the magazine landed a $3.2 million seed round led by Thiel’s venture firm. Per PitchBook, it’s the only “femtech” in which the firm has invested. This is no coincidence. Thiel Capital’s decision to back 28 and its Evie-powered agenda appears to be one of several examples of right-leaning investors and entrepreneurs bringing a particular brand of conservatism to market through several avenues.

Thiel, though perhaps one of the most well known, is hardly the only conservative billionaire investor out there. Within the PayPal Mafia, there’s also David Sacks, general partner at Craft Ventures, who hosted a fundraiser last year for Ron DeSantis. The Florida governor was recently in the news for barring investors from considering ESG (environmental, social, governance) while investing state pension money, which could prove detrimental to minority businesses and diverse fund managers in need of capital to deploy.

Investor and entrepreneur Keith Rabois hosted a fundraiser earlier this month alongside Sacks and venture capitalist Jacob Helberg in Miami called “Take Back the Senate.” The event, which saw top GOP names from around the nation convene, listed Vance and Masters as guests alongside National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott and Florida Senator Marco Rubio. In a Twitter argument last week, someone pointed out that Rabois was empowering the same people who wished to invalidate his marriage (Rabois is gay), “take away women’s repo rights, destroy the planet, etc etc etc etc,” to which Rabois responded, “blah blah blah.”

“We should consider fighting fire with fire”

Once Twitter banned Donald Trump last year, the former president and his supporters flocked to Parler, the social app co-founded and funded by billionaire heiress Rebekah Mercer and her father Robert, known for financially supporting the right-wing news outlet Breitbart.

After the January 6, 2021 insurrection, Parler briefly went offline because Amazon ceased providing technical cloud support, though the app returned a month later. This month, Parler announced the closing of a $16 million Series B and the acquisition of Dynascale, a private cloud infrastructure company, perhaps giving Parler control over its own back end.

“If the conservatives play that game, perhaps we should consider fighting fire with fire.” Kate Anthony, founder, Euphoria

There’s also Truth Social, which is backed by Trump Media & Technology Group, and Gettr, a Twitter-like platform backed by the Guo Family Foundation that’s tied to Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese billionaire known for disseminating COVID conspiracy theories. Meanwhile, Thiel is also a backer of The Right Stuff, a Tinder-like platform for conservatives, and Rumble, the cloud host of Truth Social that’s also a video platform popular with right-wing vloggers.

According to PitchBook, the Trump Media & Technology Group, launched last year, is already worth a billion dollars, a feat achieved by just a handful of Black women to date. Gettr’s last and only raise was $75 million — while the average seed round for Latinx and Black women in 2020 was $200,000 and $125,000, respectively, according to ProjectDiane.

There could exist a thousand liberal investors deploying a million each; they’d still fall short of the billions Thiel could allocate in a second to a “femtech” app by a magazine that once published “I refuse to be a self-hating white girl” as an attempted takedown of the 2020 racial awakening in the United States.

“The potential of innovation in the private sector is limitless,” Olivia DeRamus, the founder of the social app Communia, told TechCrunch. “But so is the potential to do harm.”

DeRamus said one way to counterweight conservative billionaires is to find a way to spread the use and acceptance of the ESG criteria, which, unsurprisingly, has become a target for some Republican politicians. But it’s going to take more than toothless best practices.

“The tech community needs to continue to elevate members of threatened communities as we are the best individuals to combat this type of activity,” Kate Anthony, the founder of the gender-affirming startup Euphoria, told TechCrunch, adding that more liberal billionaires need to become active as investors. “If the conservatives play that game, perhaps we should consider fighting fire with fire.”

It will take time to create more minority LPs; it is already taking too long to allocate more capital and hire more diverse fund managers. It was one thing when investors simply gave money to encourage innovative creations — although perhaps not diverse companies.

But conservative billionaires aren’t looking to fund the best and brightest new ideas, not really — 28’s entire product should be a feature, at best, on an epigon Calm app. Nonetheless, less than 5% of all venture dollars go to women, and Brittany Hugoboom, the founder of 28, is now one of the recipients.

Venture capital is all about funding innovation, and given the precarious state of the world, it should be easy for those with a surfeit of deployable dollars to ease suffering and fight climate change. But that’s not always what happens. As Anthony said, there needs to be more money from those higher up, in increasing amounts, to combat the wave of conservative investments.

Until then, these conservative billionaires stand unopposed on an economic battleground, forcing equality to take centuries to arrive.