A Silicon Valley VC is handing out ‘Free Hong Kong’ shirts at Golden State Warriors games and calling out other tech leaders for taking Chinese money while staying silent
Category : entrepreneur
- Cyan Banister, partner at Peter Thiel’s venture fund Founders Fund, is helping organize a mass protest in solidarity with protesters in Hong Kong at Golden State Warriors games in San Francisco.
- The blue and yellow shirts are meant to blend in with the team’s colors, she said, in hopes that the NBA will air them in game coverage and in the arena during the game.
- The team, which relocated to San Francisco this season, is owned by a wide range of Silicon Valley VCs and tech leaders.
- Banister called on other tech leaders, like Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, to speak up in support of the protesters, but said that many are hesitant to do so because they have business interests in China or have taken direct investment from the Chinese government.
- According to Banister, this is only the beginning and won’t be enough for Silicon Valley to sever ties with China. She compared the relationship to that of Saudi Arabia, and pointed to the fact that few if any VCs and tech firms severed ties with the nation following the murder of Washington Post journalism Jamal Khashoggi.
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When Silicon Valley tunes in to the Golden State Warriors game on Saturday, Cyan Banister hopes they notice some Mandarin among the blue and gold team merch.
The Founders Fund partner has helped organize a mass protest in solidarity with Hong Kong protesters, and she’s tired of the biggest names in tech sitting on the sidelines.
Along with her friend Lee Bishop, she will distribute up to 2,000 shirts starting at 4 p.m. outside the Warriors’ new Chase Center in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood. The team is partially owned by several tech leaders and prominent VCs, but Banister told Business Insider that more in Silicon Valley aren’t doing enough in support of what she called a mass human rights violation in Hong Kong.
“I think the people that are the most vocal in this city, in San Francisco, are some of the most silent in this issue,” Banister told Business Insider. “Where is Marc Benioff? This is built into the pledge of his company, to help with these issues around the world, and he’s quiet.”
In a global economy, it’s hard to ignore the business impact of speaking up, she said. Banister acknowledges that she may not be allowed in China again, or that some of the companies she works with may be penalized or banned in the country as retaliation for speaking out. The biggest retaliation Banister was concerned about, she said, was whether or not the team would cancel her season tickets, but she figured that would be the least of it, if she didn’t speak up when others in tech have remained silent.
“China has invested billions of dollars into these companies,” Banister said. “It’s the same as people not speaking out against Saudi Arabia. It makes it really hard for people to admit that to be where they are they’ve taken some questionable money.”
No one in Silicon Valley is immune, she said. Raising a fund is difficult, and even more so when money is as cheap as it is now. So when a benefactor comes in with a giant check, many funds and startups are more than eager to cash it. But it becomes problematic when an industry and a city known for progressive inclinations remain silent on something as important as this, Banister said.
“I think its going to take something bigger to get people’s attention,” Banister said. “This is just the beginning. A dismembered journalist didn’t stop people from working with Saudi Arabia.”
But as fed-up as Banister is with tech’s leadership, she is encouraged by the outpouring of donations and event volunteers that have put a lot on the line to stand with her.
“This isn’t about hating the NBA or basketball,” Banister told Business Insider. “This is about hating what is going on with the cost of our freedoms as individuals and patrons of the NBA. This is more of a statement of, ‘yes we are fans, but enough is enough.'”
Banister is referring to what she called a “kerfuffle,” for lack of a better word, between the NBA and the Chinese government following a tweet sent by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of the Hong Kong protests.
Banister herself is putting those season tickets to use. On Saturday’s game, she will be courtside in what she described as “incredibly loud” Warriors gear to cheer on her team. The cameras, the jumbotron, and the well padded seatmates around her won’t be able to ignore the Mandarin on her shirt.