Tech Startups Pledge to Give U.S. Employees Election Day Off

  • CEOs behind the initiative have been vocally anti-Trump
  • ‘Given the stark choices, people are activating themselves’

More than 70 technology startups and venture capital firms, including Spotify Ltd., LLC and August Capital, say they’ll give U.S. employees time off -- the whole day if necessary -- to vote in the presidential election. The initiative is being driven by tech executives who have been outspoken critics of Donald Trump, including some who say electing the Republican nominee would slow innovation and damage the economy.

Hunter Walk, a partner at venture capital firm Homebrew, said he started the project as a nonpartisan way to encourage participation in an important election. “I want the tech industry to be literate as citizens,” said Walk, who was among more than 100 tech professionals who signed an open letter this month opposing Trump’s bid for presidency.

While California and other states mandate paid time off for employees to vote, Walk said these companies are going above legal requirements by actively encouraging their staff to vote and offering them as much time as they need. He said this election is particularly important for the tech industry given the parties’ clashing views on such issues as immigration, which directly affects many tech employees. “Given the stark choices, people are activating themselves more so than in the past,” Walk said.

Silicon Valley is a traditionally liberal place, and many of the employees at companies on the list will probably vote for Hillary Clinton. Ben Lerer, the chief executive officer of Thrillist Media Group Inc., a startup participating in the Election Day effort, tweeted in June that “the ones who stand up and stop Trump will be remembered.” Ryan Petersen, the CEO of another participant called Flexport Inc., said he might have reconsidered taking funds from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund had he known Thiel was supporting Trump. (Bloomberg Beta, the venture capital arm of Bloomberg LP, is an investor in Flexport.)

Tech business leaders are signing up by tweeting notice of their participation to Walk. The tally reached 77 on Thursday.

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