Tech industry rallies against Trump

By Brian Fung

The tech industry is increasingly mobilizing against the presumptive GOP nominee. Photo / Getty Images
The tech industry is increasingly mobilizing against the presumptive GOP nominee. Photo / Getty Images

If reading the Sunday paper is a weekly tradition, you might find an interesting surprise today: A full-page ad that's mostly blank space, with bold lettering at the top that reads "DEAR DONALD."

Donald, of course, is a reference to presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. The ad follows with a short letter signed by a person identifying himself as Josh Tetrick. It appeared on Page A5 of the Sunday New York Times as well as the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, where the Republican convention is set to begin Monday.

The Times charges nearly US$152,000 for a nationwide black-and-white full-page ad on Sundays, meaning that Tetrick just dropped a serious amount of dough on trying to take Trump down a notch.

That's more money than two typical Tesla Model S's put together, and before you even get to what Tetrick may have paid the Plain Dealer and other newspapers across the country for a spot.

"Americans are frustrated and angry and scared. You've channeled this into your nomination," the letter begins.

"Americans are also good. We're generous and courageous and kind. That's what you've missed."

The letter goes on to cite ways in which Trump's populist campaign does not represent mainstream parts of America, highlighting people such as "autoworkers fighting to protect the jobs of their immigrant brothers."

If you call the phone number under Tetrick's name, you get a voicemail message that simply says, "Hi, this is Josh. Leave a message."

Who is Josh Tetrick? And why is he spending tens of thousands on a one-man anti-Trump letter campaign?

Tetrick is the chief executive of a company called Hampton Creek.

It's a San Francisco-based food-tech startup that began experimenting with plant-based egg substitutes several years ago, in hopes of producing better vegan foods.

Americans are frustrated and angry and scared. You've channeled this into your nomination.

The company has hired scientists essentially to reverse-engineer proteins from plants to mimic the properties that eggs lend to foods such as mayo, cookies and salad dressings. You may have seen some of Hampton Creek's products, such as its Just Mayo line of egg-free mayo, in your local Safeway, Costco or Whole Foods. The privately held company has raised $120 million in funding.

This is not the first time Tetrick has taken out a full-page ad in the Times. He has done it before on at least nine occasions on behalf of his company.

A visit to Hampton Creek's website reveals all of the previous NYT ads, which are entirely written in an epistolary format and deal mostly with America's relationship to food. In their own way, the letters are literally advertising for Hampton Creek.

Sunday's letter directly addressing Trump represents a departure from that pattern. It does not address food, nor the agriculture business, and it seeks to shift the dynamic of an ongoing electoral campaign.

But the anti-Trump letter does seem consistent with Tetrick's politics. According to his LinkedIn profile, Tetrick interned for former president Bill Clinton in 2004 and has since worked on various climate and clean-energy projects.

Tetrick's attack on Trump comes days after nearly 150 other tech officials signed on to a widely publicized letter calling the GOP candidate "a disaster for innovation."

Trump has a number of supporters in Silicon Valley: They include PayPal founder Peter Thiel, who is speaking at the Republican convention. But it also seems many in the thriving tech industry wouldn't be happy if Trump became president.

- Washington Post

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