Watch a Tech Conference Turn Into a Shouting Match Between Angry Venture Capitalists

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 9 2014 7:19 PM

Tech Conference Turns Into Shouting Match About Inequality in Silicon Valley

Ron Conway inequality

Screenshot / YouTube

A routine tech conference in tony Sausalito took a turn for the better on Monday when a pair of big-shot venture capitalists started shouting at one another across the room about inequality and corporate responsibility.

Venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya was onstage criticizing business-friendly San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and various big tech companies following a panel at Bloomberg’s “Next Big Thing” Summit. But when he dismissed Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s philanthropic program as “marketing,” one of Silicon Valley’s most influential money men decided he’d heard enough.

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“That is false!” boomed “super angel” Ron Conway, taking issue with Palihapitiya’s characterization of the city’s tax breaks for Twitter and other tech companies. Conway went on to defend Lee for his housing policies and Benioff and Google for their generosity. “They’re working to make it a better city, and so is Ed Lee, and it is going to get better. Not worse!”

Palihapitiya fired back, pointing to the frustration of working-class San Franciscans who are being priced out of the city by well-paid tech employees who spend their days on corporate campuses in Silicon Valley. Yes, this is the same Palihapitiya who drew fire for saying that the government shutdown was “good for all of us” because Silicon Valley corporations run the country anyway. But in this fight, he was the doe-eyed liberal.

Palihapitiya may have won by TKO when Conway eventually ran out of steam and sat back down. Conway, however, gets points for the sickest burn: “I live in the city of San Francisco, you live in the city of Palo Alto.” Oh man. That’s like Rabbit pointing out that Papa Doc went to private school.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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