Technology

Miami Founders Fund Crew Has Musk's Back in Twitter Takeover Drama

Elon Musk at a Neuralink presentation on August 28, 2020.
Elon Musk at a Neuralink presentation on August 28, 2020. Photo by Steven Jurvetson
Nearly two years after Twitter banned former President Donald Trump's account for inciting the January 6 Capitol Hill riot, the social media platform's new leader Elon Musk has reinstated him.

Musk announced over the weekend that he'd be restoring Trump's account following an informal poll in which 15 million users participated, the majority of whom voted to bring Trump back to the social media platform, according to Musk. While Trump's account is once again active, it remains unclear if or when the former president will actually return to Twitter.

"The people have spoken," Musk wrote on Twitter the evening of November 19. "Trump will be reinstated."

Civil rights groups have warned that if Trump returns to the platform, his daily barrage of conspiracy theories and misinformation will further destabilize the country. NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement that “in Elon Musk’s Twittersphere, you can incite an insurrection" and "still be allowed to spew hate speech and violent conspiracies on his platform.”

The Trump Twitter reinstatement was just the latest controversy sparked by Musk since he took over the social media giant last month as part of a $44 billion acquisition. Among other contentious moves, Musk laid off Twitter workers, fired those in dissent (in some cases publicly), and generated mass confusion with a new blue-check Twitter verification system.

Last week, he gave Twitter’s remaining employees a 36-hour ultimatum: leave the company or commit to an "extremely hardcore" redevelopment of Twitter.

Hundreds of workers responded by departing en masse. With critical teams gone, speculation abounded that the platform would begin crumbling any day.

Musk shrugged off the exodus, saying, "The best people are staying, so I’m not super worried."

Some of Musk's fellow Silicon Valley expatriates have been cheering him on from afar in South Florida, including Keith Rabois of the Founders Fund, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm that set up shop in Miami last year.

Rabois and Musk were early leaders of online payment processor PayPal and earned a substantial portion of their fortunes from the company's success. In lockstep with Musk, Rabois departed the Bay Area in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, decrying California's handling of the crisis and claiming he was off to greener pastures.

Musk and his electric car company Tesla moved to Austin, Texas, while Rabois and his venture capital firm's new offices landed in the Magic City.

It's no surprise that some of Musk's old PayPal peers have scoffed at coverage of the new Twitter chief. Aside from their ties to Musk in the business world, Rabois and former PayPal chief operating officer David Sacks share Musk's libertarian leanings, his disdain for California politics, and inclination to skewer the proverbial mainstream media. Their ire is also frequently directed at "woke mobs" and what they perceive as cancel culture.

As the Twitter acquisition saga unfolds, here's what the Founders Fund crew, a few of Musk's fellow PayPal Mafia members, and a University of Miami cartoonist-turned-tech-innovator had to say about Musk.

Mike Solana
Vice President at Founders Fund

Founders Fund executive Solana has sounded off in support of Musk throughout the Twitter management turnover. Following news of the mass employee departures at Twitter, Solana shared a series of tweets mocking users who were fearful about the site's possible collapse.



Musk responded: "Can’t tell if this is parody or real."

Over the past week, Solana has been relentlessly criticizing media coverage of Musk's Twitter overhaul. He recently wrote that it's "fascinating to watch the same people argue Elon's Twitter is both 1) clownish and incapable to the point it could at any moment vanish forever, and 2) so powerful and dangerous it could alter the way every person in this country thinks, and bring about actual fascism."

According to Rolling Stone, Musk previously chatted about Twitter’s fact-checking systems with Solana, a branding executive at Founders Fund, which was cofounded by billionaire Trump donor Peter Thiel.

Solana appears to have paid for his checkmark via Twitter Blue.

David Sacks
Tech entrepreneur

Sacks, cofounder and partner at venture capital firm Craft Ventures, is one of several former PayPal executives who have backed Musk's management decisions as he navigates his first few weeks at the helm of Twitter.

"Trump is not my preferred candidate for '24 but his continued banning was an unjustified and unwarranted interference with the marketplace of ideas," Sacks tweeted on November 19.

"Well-said," Musk responded three minutes later at 9:35 p.m.
Sacks, a regular on conservative media, has been a firm financial backer of political committees associated with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, according to a TNR report.

He's one of the early PayPal leaders who became part of the group known as "PayPal Mafia," which includes Musk, Rabois, and Thiel.

Keith Rabois
Venture capitalist, Founders Fund general partner

Rabois, another early manager at PayPal and noted contrarian, recently tweeted about Musk improving revenue at Twitter even in the face of "the large woke companies boycott."
Rabois later criticized "the hypocrisy of the Left media," pointing to CBS's decision last week to pause use of Twitter over security concerns while continuing to post on "Chinese-government controlled" TikTok, as Rabois framed it. (CBS resumed Twitter use on November 20.)

Months before Musk closed the deal to purchase Twitter, Rabois relayed a story from Musk’s early days at SpaceX.

"The Twitter woke employees are in for a rude awakening," Rabois tweeted. "Elon once threatened to fire all the interns for waiting in a long line for coffee at SpaceX and installed cameras to ensure it wouldn’t happen again."

Delian Asparouhov
Principal at Founders Fund

Asparouhov has praised Musk's Twitter leadership since Day 1 –– literally.


And following Musk's revival of Trump's account, Asparouhov appears to have shared the same reaction as many Americans: "Holy shit."


Rony Abovitz
Tech entrepreneur,
investor

It goes without saying that not every Miami tech innovator has been as approving of Musk's Twitter overhaul as the Founders Fund crew is.

In the hours following the news of the mass exodus at Twitter, Rony Abovitz, cofounder of surgical robotics company MAKO and augmented-reality firm Magic Leap, tweeted what appeared to be a handmade painting of the blue Twitter bird escaping a fiery blaze — along with a link to the song “The End” by The Doors.

“I think for many people @Twitter felt like a collectively owned public space (even though that was an illusion)," wrote Abovitz, a South Florida native and University of Miami alumnus. "It was like a public park - some weird graffiti, not totally safe, but safe enough for frequent gatherings and chats and whatnots."

The morning after, he acknowledged the site's survival through the night.

"It is still here," he wrote. "Maybe it will just linger on like a slow melting iceberg."
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Alex DeLuca is a staff writer at Miami New Times.
Contact: Alex DeLuca

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