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Venture capitalist Bijan Sabet says tech CEOs need to stand up to Trump

The Spark Capital general partner says CEOs “should remember that their employees look up to them.”

The New York Times 2013 DealBook Conference in New York Larry Busacca/Getty Images for The New York Times

Once it became clear that the things Donald Trump said in 2016 weren’t mere “campaign rhetoric” — when President Trump first tried to ban Muslims from entering the country — Spark Capital General Partner Bijan Sabet decided he had to say something.

Over the past few months, the venture capitalist has become a prolific anti-Trump tweeter and blogger. And he wants to see more prominent people in tech follow suit.

“CEOs should remember that their employees look up to them,” Sabet said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “And if they feel like their employer is not going to speak up and represent their interests, whether it’s transgender issues, women’s rights issues, the environment, immigration — I think it’s a missed opportunity, for sure.”

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He cited the specific example of President Trump’s two attempted travel bans, which targeted Muslim-majority nations and were loudly protested at airports and businesses. While tech employees were vocal, Sabet explained, executives “had a bit of a weak response.”

“CEOs, even when they started to get involved, took the position of, ‘Hey this immigration thing is bad because it’s not good for business,” he said. “And I think that’s not what the employees are upset about. Tech CEOs, we should remind them their customers and their employees matter more than their shareholders.”

Regarding the broader issue of political division in America, Sabet suggested that those differences are not as extreme as we imagine, and that a solid majority of voters could break party lines to discuss common ground on topics like minimum wage, consumer protections and civil rights.

“I don’t think there’s this radical left-wing fringe that cares about these issues,” he said. “I think most of us care about these issues. And so speaking up, if it gets another person talking and another person talking, I think it’s a good thing.”

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