Ideological Investors

Last night was the Republican debate.  I didn’t watch it.  I didn’t watch the State of the Union address either.  Most of the time, politicians just say things that are made for television soundbites.  One of the reasons Trump is attracting a following is he knows exactly how to do this-and he knows who his customer is.  He gets to their limbic brain articulating their “why” like few people in politics can do.

America is divided strongly now.  Certain states are not even politically competitive and the Presidential election comes down to about 7 of them.  I really don’t care what someone from California, Texas, or New York thinks.  What are they thinking in Ohio and Florida?

The divide has put stress on all kinds of relationships.  Friends that aren’t friends, family that isn’t family anymore.  Being a libertarian conservative that votes Republican in a very blue area is interesting. Have you been introduced at parties as “our Republican friends”?  Have you been invited to parties just so at least one person can be on the opposite side?  The divide has affected lots of different relationships but there is one I thought it would never affect and that’s business.

I never thought I would be thinking about this.  Idealogical investors.  This is a sort of a new phenomena.  There have been investors that would forego investing in things like tobacco, or alcohol, or firearms, or sex since the early 1990’s.  But, today there are people that won’t invest in someone or do business with someone purely because they are from a different political party.

I know investors that will invest only in minorities, women, or other things that they believe in.  That’s okay, as long as they are transparent about it.  I have never asked them, “But what if they were in a different political party?”  That’s sort of discriminatory.

I have run into investors and people that think if you are part of the opposite party, you don’t have the smarts to be a part of the group.

I am not this way.  My investments speak for themselves and so do my actions.  For goodness sake, the PublicGood team was an integral part of the Obama tech team!  We don’t agree on politics but we do agree on business.  I enjoy spending time with them.

I have co-invested in plenty of deals with people that are different politically from me.  It just doesn’t matter when it comes to analyzing, and investing in companies. It doesn’t matter post investment when you are trying to help companies.  What matters is being successful.  Investments are measured by their bottom line only.

Most of the venture community, and most of the entrepreneurial community is on the left wing.  Most of the time, I don’t find it hard to circulate.  But, lately, I am sensing a change.  Sometimes I am even seeing overt discrimination.

That can’t be.  Tolerance doesn’t mean agreement.

  • kbb

    It is a natural extension of social impact investing, a few steps further on the continuum. It is a direct assault on the tenet that diversity of views improves outcome.

    • You are onto something regarding social impact investing. The first social impact investors wouldn’t invest in guns, tobacco or alcohol. Now it’s far reaching. I was at an impact investing seminar. I asked if my portfolio company brilliant.org, or publicgood.com met their qualifications of impact investing. They told me they didn’t. Shocked I was.

      • Seph

        It is really surprising that neither Brilliant or PublicGood met the qualifications. The folks at the seminar must have set up very narrow definitions for “impact”.

        • Has to be a part of the mission statement of the company. I think that is stupid.

          • kbb

            They laid out their criteria around mission not (or in addition to) impact. Meaning, implicitly, they are willing to sacrifice impact. They aren’t alone, unfortunately.

          • Any capitalist enterprise that builds value for people is an impactful company.

  • Seph

    Trying to look at it objectively, different people will derive value in different ways, some of which are not purely financial. Even speaking financially, every investor will have a different definition of what is a *good enough* return. In the case of your ideological investors, they place tremendous value on “virtue signaling” to their fellow ideologues.

    That said, it’s a shame that someone would behave this way. On the other hand, perhaps the parties in question are doing you a favor by signaling their value system up front. Imagine being already married into a deal and then having the brown stuff hit the fan over political hoohah. Ugh.

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