Asana co-founder and head of product Justin Rosenstein discussed the political views of his controversial investor and former board member Peter Thiel today at the Tech Inclusion conference in San Francisco.
Asana isn’t the only company to face questions about its continued relationship with Thiel in light of his ongoing support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump — Facebook and Y Combinator have also recently faced pressure to distance themselves from Thiel.
Thiel spoke in support of Trump at the Republican National Convention and donated $1.25 million to his campaign after the release of a tape that showed Trump talking about non-consensually grabbing women’s genitals. The timing of his donation triggered questions about Thiel’s motivations — did the financial investment indicate idealogical support for Trump’s comments on sexual assault?
Rosenstein said today he doesn’t think that’s the case. Thiel wants “what’s best for the world,” Rosenstein said, adding that he hasn’t spoken with the investor and Facebook board member since prior to the donation.
“My understanding is that he disagrees with the many grotesque things Trump has said, but that the foreign economic policies Trump has are so important that it makes him the best candidate for president. I strongly disagree with that position,” Rosenstein explained, “But it’s something I can wrap my head around.” Thiel will reportedly address his support for Trump in a speech on Monday.
Rosenstein co-founded Asana with Dustin Moskovitz, who has vocally and financially supported Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the election. Despite Rosenstein and Moskovitz’s personal views, Rosenstein said that conversations about politics and Thiel’s role at Asana have been “transparent” and that the company strives to make sure Republican employees aren’t alienated in those conversations.
His comments echoed those by Y Combinator’s Sam Altman and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who said that cutting ties with Thiel would harm the diversity of opinions at their organizations.
Thiel invested in Asana in 2012 through his Founders Fund and also joined the company’s board of directors. Rosenstein said he is no longer a board member, although it’s unclear when Thiel left.