How investors can fight terror

Historically, many investors have tried hard to be apolitical. But US political dysfunction has forced many investors to become active in domestic politics, and Hamas’s war on Israel forces many of us to fight Hamas.

You might think I condemn Hamas because I am both Jewish and Israeli. But that is not the reason.

  • First, deliberately massacring civilians–terrorism–is fundamentally evil and unjustifiable. I feel complicit if I don’t take an unmistakeable stance on this. Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said Hamas’s atrocities are “worse than what I saw with ISIS.” Hamas is a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, Christianophobic organization. 
  • Second, if terrorism succeeds in Israel, others will use terrorism elsewhere. I was in Manhattan on 9/11. Hamas and its allies Iran cheered 9/11, and explicitly call for and support terror against America and other Western powers.
  • Third, as a venture capitalist, much of my job is figuring out how to support our portfolio companies globally.  That also includes thinking about how to protect our companies and the people who work for them from harm, and how to influence the political environment in such a way that they’re set up for success.  

There are of course risks to investors getting involved in politics. You might alienate certain limited partners (backers of funds). But I’ll quote one VC I know: “You have a right to your opinion, and I have a right to filter my personal and professional networks down to those on the side of humanity.” I also find that most limited partners will invest in people with wildly different political views, if they think they can make money.  

Similarly, during the 2016 and 2020 elections, many VCs (including me) publicly endorsed one of the Presidential candidates. I’m not aware of any who experienced significant downsides from doing so, and many received praise from their peers for publicly taking a (small) risk.

At the same time as I deplore Hamas, I am in great pain for the many Palestinian people who do not support Hamas, are suffering tremendously, and have only limited ability to fight Hamas using them as cannon fodder and human shields. Civilian deaths are inevitable in war. But for Hamas, civilian Palestinian deaths are a feature not a bug. As Mona Charen wrote, “Hamas Makes War on [both] Israelis and Palestinians”. 

A non-Jewish VC with a large social media following asked me, “If you were me and wanted to support Israel, what would you do?”  

You can choose to do nothing, but it’s hard to advocate for that. There are a lot of loud voices out there publishing misinformation; we need voices advocating facts. If you took action on Black Lives Matter, LBGTQ rights, January 6 insurrection, Dobbs vs. Jackson, Russia’s War on Ukraine … then opposing arbitrary killing and torture of civilians should be easy. 

What you should NOT do: post a wishy-washy text about how there are two sides to every conflict and you’re saddened for everyone. Don’t commit the Sin of Moral Equivalence

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I’ve talked with many allies, and I’ve identified steps you can take if you’re comfortable coming “out of the closet”; if you prefer to be more discreet; or even if you’re a student/young person and feel like you have neither capital nor influence. 

Here are some easy steps you can take if you have a public platform:

  • Publish a statement supporting Israel and opposing Hamas on your social channels, keeping it simple but clear. You’re preceded by General Catalyst, Rishi Sunak, Sam Lesson, Satay Nadella, Jason Calacanis, Keith Rabois, First Round, Sundar Pichai, Marc Benioff, Alfred Lin, Greylock, Doug Leone, Eric Yuan, All Raise, and many other prominent investors.  You can add yourself to the allies list at TechCondemningTerror.com . Yale SOM is tracking the companies who have condemned Hamas here
  • Follow and share content from fact-based, anti-terrorism voices, and ask your followers to do the same. For talking points geared to supporting Israeli tech, see NoMatterWhat.tech .  For general pro-Israel content, see StandwithIsrael.today and Stand4israel.net.  
  • Join over 700 other VCs and sign the VC Community Statement of Support for Israel. Sign up here
  • Join Business Leaders Against Antisemitism, a pledge to refrain from hiring any known supporters of US-designated terrorist organizations. As the site points out, this statement is in no way intended to discriminate against members of any ethnic or religious group.

If you are comfortable putting some money behind your beliefs:

  • Invest in Israel and Israeli companies. The Hamas War is forcing a huge wave of innovation that will rapidly create business opportunities. The Israeli tech community has spun up some nonprofit vehicles, e.g., Iron Nation and SAFE Dome, specifically to help Israeli startups as their teams defend Israel. Related, the Jewish National Fund USA has an internal venture fund called the Israel Impact Investment Committee, which backs pre-seed startups in Israel’s north and south (i.e., the most vulnerable areas.)
  • Donate some of your startup equity to Tmura (for Israeli companies) or A Good Option (US companies). The proceeds from eventual exits go to support a nonprofit of your choice. Tmura has received equity donations from 879 Israeli companies, and has ‘cashed in’ ~$30M.
  • Incubate or invest in startups with a social impact. The ADIR Challenge is a global innovation and technology challenge to identify tech companies combating antisemitism and hate.  Also see my post, Seeking CEO+team for VC-backed startup: Identify and move the hidden levers of power.
  • Contribute to the people on the ground who are suffering. Use IsraelGives to find vetted charities. To support the Palestinian people without supporting Hamas, we suggest Americares or Save the Children
  • Proactively recruit students who are leaving college because of antisemitism. Palantir said, “We are launching an initiative for students who because of antisemitism fear for their safety on campus and need to seek refuge outside traditional establishments of higher education. They are welcome to join Palantir, and we are setting aside 180 positions for them immediately.”
  • Thank and better donate to those elected leaders who are supporting Israel, including the great majority of US political leaders, red and blue.  You can message your elected officials here.
  • Ask the companies you work with to condemn Hamas and provide mental health and security support for their distraught employees, of all backgrounds. Emphasize DEI training needs to take antisemitism and Islamophobia seriously. See Help For Those Struggling At Work With The Horror In Israel. Here’s a template letter: Steps <Our Company> Can Take to Support Israel
  • Visit Israel. See David Siegel’s Israel Tech Missions Venture or contact Aish for suggested trips.

If you have limited capital, you can take other steps to support Israel:

  • Lobby executives at X, Meta, Bytedance, Youtube, and other social media companies to stop the flow of hate and misinformation. We’re all bearing the cost of the pollution that these companies let flow. This is the second most important battlefield, after the physical land itself.
  • Ask your companies to protect their brand from association with misleading news. If you are running programmatic or retargeting ads through Google or other vendors, your ads are most likely funding content you’d find abhorrent.
  • Ask the universities you’re associated with if they have condemned Hamas and antisemitism, just as they have rightfully condemned Islamophobia. See sample petitions from Cornell, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, U. Chicago, and Stanford. More resources are at CampusFairness and the AMCHA Initiative.
  • Report misinformation on social media. You can use Project T.R.U.T.H., an AI-powered, fact-checking, anti-Hamas app, and report misinformation via Words of Iron and Canary Mission.
  • Join the Startup Reserves for Israel, Start-Up Nation Central, Frontline Initiative, Circles of Dialogue, NextOctober, and/or American Students for Israeli Start-Ups. Collectively these are a global force of thousands of investors, volunteers, early adopter customers, and others leaning in to provide services to fill gaps in Israel’s startup workforce.  
  • Check in on your friends: Israeli, Jewish, Arab, and Muslim. This is a tough time and a simple WhatsApp message goes a long way.
  • Learn more about the background of this war. See recommended reading below.

Lastly, traditional Jews believe that the world treats us as we treat others. If you speak and take actions of lovingkindness, you are more likely to receive mercy in turn.  In this bloody war, people of all religions need benevolence.

Recommended further reading:

Opinion

Palestinian/Arab voices

The finance/tech industry and the war

How business leaders can impact policy

Background

Disclosures: This was cross-posted in the Observer. David Teten lived in Israel for 3 years and served as CEO of an Israeli startup. Links are not endorsements. Thanks to Gina Gotthilf for providing some of the sample text and names above, and for inspiring this post. Thanks to Ben Luria, Jonathan ‘Yoni’ Frenkel, and many others for thoughtful feedback.)

 

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