Killing of Jamal Khashoggi unlikely to impact Silicon Valley VC funding

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Killing of Jamal Khashoggi unlikely to impact Silicon Valley VC funding
The Saudi's have invested billions in Silicon Valley.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The fallout from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly at the hands of Saudi officials, has big implications right here at home. The Saudi's have invested billions in Silicon Valley. And while the Trump administration is under pressure to do more, some are pressuring Silicon Valley companies to do more as well.

San Jose City Councilman Johnny Khamis went to Saudi Arabia in May to advise on government projects. But he's canceled his next trip scheduled for late November, in protest of the killing of Khashoggi.

"I'm concerned about the rights of the media and the freedom to operate around the world," says Khamis, who represents district 10 and who is of Middle Eastern heritage.

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Khamis recognizes the billions of dollars of Saudi money that pour into Silicon Valley, especially into recent high-profile startups like DoorDash, Slack, and Uber. He doesn't want funding to stop, but adds, when politicians and corporations take a stand, it sends message.

"I believe corporations move the needle on very important issues, like gays rights, and they have been part of a dialogue. And I think it's up to them to change the conversation around the world," says Khamis.

For local activists, like the Yemeni Alliance Committee, the conversation has been to hold the Saudi's accountable for the war in Yemen. They protested Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's recent visit to the Bay Area back in April. They want Silicon Valley companies to push even harder.

"I think we can be ambitious and say, "Hey, all these human lives matter more than billions of dollars'," says Jehan Hakim, with the Yemeni Alliance Committee. The group also wants to the United States to ends its support of the Saudi's role in the conflict.

RELATED: Saudi state-run news reports missing journalist killed in consulate after 'fight'

But political rhetoric aside, many venture capitalists don't think Khashoggi's killing will change Silicon Valley's relationship with Saudi money.

"Business people have a responsibility to stakeholders," says Sanjay Subhedar, the managing director and co-founder of Storm Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm based in Menlo Park. He says Saudi's are new to Silicon Valley and aren't as big a player as many think - despite funding some high profile companies.

Subhedar believes, in the end, even in Silicon Valley, which talks a lot about social justice, it will be business as usual.

"If limited partner investors start to bring politics into the game, they will be shut out of investing venture capital funds, or companies here," says Subhedar.