As tensions between Silicon Valley and Donald Trump continue to mount, PayPal co-founder and tech billionaire investor Peter Thiel's support of the Republican presidential nominee has set him apart from most of his peers. Now, Thiel's reported $1.25m (£1.03m) contribution to Trump's troubled campaign has sparked a bitter debate in Silicon Valley over whether or not to cut ties with the venture capitalist.
Following the New York Times report about Thiel giving to the campaign through Super Pac gifts and donations, several members of the tech industry took to Twitter questioning whether Y Combinator, the high-profile start-up accelerator where Thiel is a "part-time partner", is considering cutting ties with him.
Based in Mountain View, California, the three-month accelerator programme has graduated companies such as Reddit, Dropbox, Airbnb, Zenefits and Twitch.tv.
On Monday (17 October), Project Include, an organisation that aims to increase diversity in Silicon Valley, announced that it was severing ties with Y Combinator due to its continued connection with Thiel, who spoke on Trump's behalf at the Republican National Convention this summer.
"Thiel's actions are in direct conflict with our values at Project Include," co-founder Ellen Pao wrote on Monday. "We agree that people shouldn't be fired for their political views, but this isn't a disagreement on tax policy; this is advocating hatred and violence. And donating $1.25 million is a lot more than speech."
"Giving more power to someone whose ascension and behaviour strike fear into so many people is unacceptable," she continued, referring to Trump. "His attacks on Black, Mexican, Asian, Muslim, and Jewish people, on women, and on others are more than just political speech; fueled by hate and encouraging violence, they make each of us feel unsafe."
"Because of [Thiel's] continued connection to YC (Y Combinator), we are compelled to break off our relationship with YC. We hope this situation changes, and that we are both willing to move forward together in the future. Today it is clear to us that our values are not aligned."
However, Paul Graham, who co-founded Y Combinator and ran it for almost a decade before stepping down in 2014, soon took to social media, arguing that a part-time partner is like an employee.
While Graham has previously referred to Trump as a troll, he did write, "How would you feel if companies run by Republicans did the same and fired employees who were big Hillary supporters?"
Current president of Y Combinator Sam Altman, who previously compared Trump to Hitler, also took to Twitter saying, "Diversity of opinion is painful but critical to the health of a democratic society."
"The only two vocal Trump supporters I am close to are Peter Thiel and my grandma," Altman wrote in a post on Monday announcing his endorsement for Hillary Clinton. "This has been a strain on my relationship with both of them—I think they are completely wrong in their support of this man."
However, he argues that there is a distinction between the comments Trump makes and Thiel's support of the Republican candidate.
"Some have said that YC should terminate its relationship with Peter over this," Altman said. "But as repugnant as Trump is to many of us, we are not going to fire someone over his or her support of a political candidate... Of course, if Peter said some of the things Trump says himself, he would no longer be part of Y Combinator."
The timing of Thiel's financial support to the campaign has also been a bone of contention after Trump was recently caught on a leaked 2005 tape bragging about groping and kissing women without their consent. Trump has also received a string of sexual abuse allegations from multiple women, leading many Republican leaders and and wealthy conservatives to distance themselves from the candidate.
Code for America co-founder Catherine Bracy also posted a series of tweets saying Silicon Valley should disown Thiel, adding that anyone who defends him is sending a powerful message to people, particularly minorities, about their values.