January 31, 2017; TechCrunch
The American Civil Liberties Union, recent recipients of unprecedented levels of donations from the American people, will be part of the next class accepted into famed Silicon Valley startup accelerator Y-Combinator. There, it will receive mentorship, a network of powerful connections in tech, and a chance to meet and present to potential investors.
What? They are not busy enough? And how does a 97-year old civil rights nonprofit fit in with a startup tech incubator?
Over the past week, as it mobilized quickly to respond to the immigration orders of the Trump administration, the ACLU raised $24 million—six times its yearly online fundraising average—in just a few days. This was due in part to challenge grants and grants provided by a number of well-heeled sympathizers, including tech executives. This unprecedented windfall followed the other tidal waves of donations that followed the presidential election.
Apparently, the two organizations have been providing informal guidance to one another on more discrete issues before YC invited the civil liberties organization to join its next class. There’s some potential for controversy here, as YC has refused to cut its ties with Trump supporter Peter Thiel. YC president Sam Altman tweeted, “Thiel is a high profile supporter of Trump. I disagree with this. YC is not going to fire someone for supporting a major party nominee. That’s a dangerous path to start down.”
Altman says that they will break the usual mode of delivery and send their mentors to New York because the organization is so busy right now. He tweeted:
25 YC founders offered to go help at the ACLU in the first 30 mins since I sent the email. ❤our community.
— Sam Altman (@sama) January 31, 2017