Silicon Valley ran on Saudi
And likely still does. Because, innovation, of course.
Silicon Valley innovates so well, so much and so fast that even for people like me it’s really hard to follow everything it does, when it happens. This is why I have only noticed now a 2019 report on Silicon Valley being financially backed by Saudi oil wealth.
In September 2019, several famous high-tech companies like Uber, WeWork, Slack, MapBox DoorDash… all were - or had been at one point all backed by Vision Fund, an enormous venture capital fund whose size is _“almost double the investments made by U.S. venture firms last year.”
What was little known (again: in 2019) is that a key contributing partner to the Vision Fund, that is managed by a Japanese holding company called SoftBank, was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. So… what does it mean for members of the Saudi Public Wealth Fund to be on the boards of high-tech stars of the Silicon Valley?
To make that point, the article noted that “Uber’s CEO was one of the first to pull out of Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment conference… after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, but the kingdom’s now 10% stake in [Uber] could cause problems as it races to go public.”
In general, it’s hard to figure out exactly what kind of pressure Saudi investors can apply. But it cannot be little. As the article puts it, ”$45 billion (that is the amount invested by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia into the fund) is an awful lot of influence to have“.
The article’s conclusion is obvious, but worth repeating it in full, two years after publications (for more details on the “Big Tech” companies involved, do read the full story):
“it’s very ironic that, for all of Silicon Valley’s noise about moving fast, breaking things, accessibility, equality, and good old-fashioned American innovation and Freedom, a not insignificant part of it continues funded by foreign governments whose values are fundamentally at odds with what Silicon Valley claims to promote.”