The plutocrat - Page 3

Tech mogul Ron Conway is trying to buy San Francisco politics and sell his pro-business agenda

Ron Conway has spent more in the last two elections than any other San Franciscan.

To be a part of his exclusive investment club you had to have a minimum net worth of at least a million dollars, or have a famous name, according to Rivlin. Countless of the Internet's rising stars joined Angel Investors and its successor companies. Cobbled from myriad business journals is a small list from among many of Conway's chosen: Dean Morton of Hewlett Packard, golfer Tiger Woods, Stanford University Engineering Dean Jim Gibbons, Twitter CEO Biz Stone, entertainer MC Hammer, venture capitalist Frank Quattrone, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

For a man who made his fortune investing in the hottest names in tech, Conway is often described as a bit of an anti-tech Luddite. Not relying on product knowledge, his strategy boils down to this: Conway trusts his first impression of a startup's CEO. He goes with his gut, as he explains in a free Stanford YouTube class featuring Conway.

And though sometimes his companies would fail, the successes more than made up for those failures — so much so, that he had to expand. Conway started new LLCs to handle his expanding investments. Angel Investors II started with $150 million, according to Rivlin. SV Angel III and IV were no slouches either, starting with investments of $40 million apiece, according to SEC filings for the companies.

The number of investments from Angel Investors at the time of Rivlin's 2001 book was already well over the hundreds. And the most recent numbers for SVAngel, from 2011, list the number of startups they've invested in at 290 companies.

Conway disciple David Lee officially took over as head of the Angels last year, according to California business filings, but several sources indicate Conway is still the largest investor in the various "Angel" branded companies.

Conway is also the head of a long list of other shadowy businesses, all incorporated in Delaware for its lax tax and regulatory policies. Among the more than a dozen companies just in San Francisco that list Conway as president, partner, founder, or agent-of-service — for which most have little information publicly available — are SV Angel Management Holding, RC Chirp Fund LLC, RC Chirp Management LLC, 2000 Washington Street, 2006 Washington Street, Conway Family Foundation, and Magillicutty LLC.

What separates Angel Investors, though, from the usual investment angels, is Conway's unique way of leveraging his network, known as his "Rontourage." Hundreds of tech luminaries and celebrities tied to Conway's Angel companies have an understanding that they will trade favors, according to Rivlin's book.

"The only caveat, whether you joined a side fund, an advisory board, or Angel Investors, was that you should lend a hand when you could," Rivlin wrote. "If you're in the club, you can do someone a favor and trust that somehow you're going to get repaid for that favor," tech entrepreneur Jad Duwaik told Rivlin.

That strategy goes a long way towards explaining what Conway is doing in San Francisco.



Mayor Lee nows seems to be getting the royal Conway treatment, and the companies Conway invests in are getting strong support from the Mayor's Office at City Hall, from the tax breaks that Twitter and Zynga received last year to this year's unsuccessful effort to maintain Ainbnb's exemption from the transient occupancy tax (a decision made by the Treasurer/ Tax Collector's Office, which defied Lee's public lobbying on the issue).

SV Angel has investments or equity in over 103 total San Francisco startups, according to SV Angel documents leaked to Fortune last year, including Airbnb, Digg, Formspring, Wikia, EventBrite, Zynga, StumbleUpon, Justin.TV, and a little company called Twitter.


He's not native to SF. Conway's just as entitled to participate in San Francisco politics as is John Avalos, David Campos, Jane Kim, Chris Daly or Christina Olague - NONE of whom are from San Francisco.

Length of residence in the city is meaningless - commitment to change is and Conway shows a great deal of courage in wanting to break the back of the progressive machine in this city which has held us back for decades. Clearly that threatens Steven.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

organized a bunch of foot soldiers on election day in D6 to intimidate voters into supporting him. And yet one guy makes some financial contrinutions to a cause he beleves in and, to the SFBG, that's a gross distortion of the process.

I wonder if Tim can describe a time when he was in a position to influence things politically and yet he declined to do so because he felt that no one person should attempt to sway things his way? Well, I already know the answer to that question - NEVER.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 5:37 pm

if that's okay with you, why not forego elections all together? Just give the vote to those who write the fattest checks. Everyone else will be effectively disenfranchised. oh snap! that's the system we have now.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

Those spending the most didn't come out on top. If Conway were writing checks for progressives they'd be writing articles talking about how glorious his exercise of citizenship is and how important it be protected.

Secondly - it's the height of hypocrisy for the Guardian to interview Olague for this piece - a woman they spent months tearing down, then refused to endorse, then when their endorsed candidate self-immolated in a fiery blaze of unappreciated ass-grabbing, quasi-endorsed her by writing article after article mentioning how awesome she was. Too little too late - as we all know Breed wiped the floor with Olague and she can in no small part thank The Guardian for that.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

The Progressive all split their vote 7 ways, while the "code" went out $$$$$, for Republicans to vote for Breed.
And the rightwing puppet Breed won.
Big money always wins.
Prostitution is legal.
Conway is a Nixon Republican, who cheered when Bush & Nixon assassinated JFK.
Now the Nixon/ Bush gang is trying to assassinate Ross.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 3:57 pm
Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

write a comment that's totally loony, and make it look like it comes from a progressive. then direct a sarcastic comeback towards (who else?) yourself! nice try, but no progressive would have written that.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

Billionaires buying in is terrible, but then self pity inspired progressives are absolutely no better. Carpet Bagger progressives like Avalos, Campos, Mirkarimi, etc... are absolutely no better.

The average citizen is fucked anyway they turn.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 9:48 pm

And you aren't? There are very few native SF'cans. We are all immigrants and carpetbaggers here. We came to make a life. So why should we stand to have someone who can just walk in with some money buy and raze the city.

But, you're right. The average citizen is fucked with the likes of Conway who will come and go as quickly as he invests and sells.

Conway, we know you are listening. Get out of my backyard.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 4:13 pm

We're all interploers here.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 5:47 pm

Speak for yourself. I was born and raised here.

Most natives have been all sent packing by redevelopment,gentrification, and speculation. Only the wealthy and poor natives are still here, and the poor have no voice. The City has been taken over by self-absorbed carpetbaggers who care more about their dogs than about other human beings. Neither technology, business, nor belief systems will solve the problems that have steadily increased since the 70's; homelessness, hunger, access to medical care and education, MUNI, and economic justice. The Powers That Be don't have a clue how to resolve these issues, because they do not even know anyone affected by these problems.

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 11:02 am

almost everyone. Even the poor have more now than then, and more security. And they wouldn't be poor in many coutnries.

Change is natural, particularly in the US. But if you dont like SF now, remember that we've had liberal politicians since the 1960's - back in the day this was a republican town.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 11:56 am

Daly, Campos, and Avalos have been SF residents for well over a decade. More importantly , they have served San Franciscans in an official capacity for quite a few years. By contrast, Conway pops up out of the blue and attempts to buy his way into our electoral process. I don't know what you call it, but I call that subverting democracy.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

Daly is a resident of Fairfield BTW - where he send his children to school. Avalos was born and raised in LA, Campos too.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 8:05 pm

Your knocking 'em out of the park today, Lucretia!

Posted by Snoozers on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 10:58 pm

You must enjoy giving yourself a pat on the back.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

I have been away taking the restorative waters, as it were - and drinking the blood of virgins. I return rested and restored. Be warned.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

No. I only go by "Snoozers", except for the occasional time I forget to change it from "Guest".

Posted by Snoozers on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

If that's your idea of "knocking 'em out of the park", you haven't lived.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

Conway lived here as a child, moved away at age 14 or 15 -- to a wealthy enclave, no less -- and hadn't set foot in SF until he materialized again a few years ago. By contrast, Campos, Avalos and Daly had lived and served in this city for quite a few years before Conway finally got back to SF with a nob of gray hair and a bag full of money.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

Mar, Mirkarimi, Ammiano, etc... serve an agenda.

They don't serve the citizens of the city.

The citizens of the city are to be experimented on, not served. According to progressives we are all lab rats.

If the citizens were to be served by progressives, the nuts and bolts of city government would be better served, instead progressives worry about what other people's kids eat.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 10:11 pm

All one needs to know about Campos and Avalos was how easily they sold out the nature and history of GG Park (and completely ignored the GG Park Master Plan) by SUPPORTING replacing 10 acres of grass there with 10 acres of toxic tire particles and dead plastic.

Screw them and the rest of the jokers that come here - get the support of progressives - serve a couple of terms and screw things up badly like they did to Golden Gate Park - and then move to Sacto or somewhere else.

Campos & Avalos are bums who couldn't even stand up to the City Fields Foundation / Newsom / Ginsburg / Fisher machine but instead rolled over like the phonies they are (same goes for Eric Mar and Jane Kim).

Posted by Guest on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 10:17 pm

Progressives: sometimes not tough enough standing up to the machine

Ron Conway: the one driving the machine

Posted by Greg on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 10:30 pm

But who is driving the Progressive Machine (and there is one, no doubt about that)?

Posted by D. Native on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 8:41 am

Since you know so much about it, why don't you tell us who, in fact, is driving the "Prog Machine". Do tell! The truth is, you don't know jack shit, but that doesn't stop you from giving your lame opinion, does it?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

Those are the big kahunas of the progressive machine right now. Behind them is the lilliputian Aaron Peskin and bringing up the rear are SEIU ayatollahs Chris Daly and Gabs Haaland.

No women - they're relegated to "support roles" within the progressive movement or, like with Jane Kim, only occasionally joining the men in asserting leadership.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 5:22 pm

This is laughable. Mirkarimi has about as much power as a panda at the zoo. He is under constant surveillance and, if Conway gets his way, he will be forced to fight a recall attempt for all he's worth. So, where's the machine that's geared up to save him? Daly, Campos and Avalos were totally silent during Mirkarimi's ordeal. This is a "machine" with all the gears and parts disassembled. In other words, not a machine except in the demented fantasy of Lucretia Snapples. What a joke.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

"...Campos and Avalos were totally silent during Mirkarimi's ordeal." Except at the Board of Supervisors vote.

Posted by Hortencia on Dec. 02, 2012 @ 9:29 am

As we saw, RossGate was a major factor in the elections last month.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 02, 2012 @ 10:37 am

...though I think each is personally popular enough in his respective district that it wouldn't have mattered.

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Posted by on Sep. 02, 2013 @ 9:30 am

"Progressive" in this town has come to mean "opportunist."
The last real progressives in this town were George Moscone and Harvey Milk.

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 11:09 am

Harvey Milk was a populist, not a leftist, a former Republican stock broker.

George Moscone was a neighborhood guy, not a nonprofiteer.

Neither of them can be compared to today's labor/nonprofit professional progressives.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 11:15 am

if you think SF is too greedy and unequal, you can't blame the republicans for that. They've been a spent force in SF for two generations now.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 11:57 am


Posted by Joseph Thomas on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 10:47 am

try and influence the political debate unless they are progressive, in which case it's OK?

So Bruce can funnel his millions into a left-wing mouthpiece and that's somehow different? Or when unions and non-profits do it? Or plaintiff lawyers or poverty pimps?

But as soon as a company or business leader or wealthy individual seeks to restore some balance and moderation to the city's politics then he is "buying votes" and a corrupting force?

What's it like to be this baised, skewed and prejudiced?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

If you like Ron Conway, you must Love Citizens United. If so, you really are an outlier, since 80 % of Americans are opposed to special-interest money flooding election campaigns.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

that "progressives" always claim to be so much smarter than all the rest of us, and yet the best they can ever come up with are strawman arguments.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

If you don't like SCOTUS decisions, then you should be voting a different way.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 6:36 am

Conway makes an effort to appeal outside his comfort zone, about a range of people-facing government failings like Muni and clean streets that most voters of all political stripes like. Tech will not solve these problems because they are very simple problems solved elsewhere but caused by corruption locally.

So the Guardian plays the losing progressive hand again by directing the conversation from how corruption impacts most voters to the litany of guilt trip poverty pimps. Just like the solutions to delivery of services involve rooting out corruption, the solutions to poverty do not just involve throwing more money at the corrupt departments or nonprofits.

So long as progressives continue to play this losing hand over and again, there can be no reversal of the death spiral. The problem is corruption where the wealthy buy government to subsidize their profits using labor and the nonprofits as flak catchers leaving most folks paying taxes for crappy government services and the lot of the dwindling "most vulnerable" getting worse and worse and worse.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

When I first heard of Conway a few years ago, his net worth was listed as something on the order of 200-300 million. Now it's 1.5 billion? That sucking sound you heard was the wealth of middle America being drained from our pockets and concentrated with the likes of Ron Conway.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 7:59 pm

does not mean that he somehow took it from you. Rather he created wealth which means that we are all better off.

If the 10,000 richest Americans all went to live in China, I guarantee you that you would be worse off.

Envy isn't a viable political strategy.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 6:39 am

If you rising tide propaganda is so strong, why has over 90% of all wealth created since 2007 gone to less than 1% of US citizens?

Why has the number of people using food stamps risen from 26 million to 47 million sine 2007?

The top are getting much richer, the rest are stagnating or drowning. Just because you don't believe in class struggle or the exploitation of labor by capital does not mean it is not true.

Let the 10,000 richest move to China. Perhaps the Chinese manufacturing workers that make the goods that generate the profits on which the venture (vulture) capitalists feast will mete out the justice those new immigrants to China deserve.

Posted by Eddie on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 8:20 am

you need to focus on how to increase your own wealth, and not worry just because someone else is doing better than you. Envy solves nothing.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 8:57 am

You can't get past your rising tide theory. How is everybody better off when real unemployment is around 20% and over one-seventh of Americans depend on food stamps?. If wealth generation by the owners helped everybody (rising tide), then these numbers would decrease as the rich got richer. Instead, they have increased rapidly.

Sorry to burst your world view, but everyone is not better off, most people are worse off, especially since 2007, but really since 1970. Real wages have stagnated, two-earner households are the rule, not the exception, unemployment through the roof, homelessness has increased exponentially, etc.

Also, I don't need you to tell me on what to focus. I'm not looking for your advice. I'm just challenging your flawed propaganda.

Posted by Eddie on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 9:17 am

for the purpose of this debate is whether those who are worse are are so because there also happen to be some very rich people.

You see it as a cake of fixed size that is divided up inequitably. That overlooks the fact that the rich create wealth, which many of us then share in.

If Steve Jobs had never had been born, that would be one less billionaire, but you cannot argue from that that you would be wealthier as a result.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 11:52 am

The "wealth" that you say the rich create for society is an illusion, and it's one that comes at great cost to the planet and the people. As we saw when the last dot-com and housing bubbles popped, billions of dollars in this "wealth" can be wiped out in an instant. It isn't real, it's simply a manipulation of markets and governments by those with power. But the externalities of this form of "wealth" creation -- global warming, loss of biodiversity, declining real wages, social instability, failure to build the infrastructure and systems that future generations will need, etc. -- are quite real.

Posted by steven on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

(OK, not Trump) have formed foundations like Carnegie, Rockefeller, Gates, Buffett etc. to chanel that money back into society. Tens of billions of dollars never stays static - it is always used, either to create jobs and prosperity, ot is returned whence it came.

The left loves to channel envy as a substitute for policies that create real success, but it is an intellectually bankrupt miasma and delusion.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

The trolls are doing their troll thing, pushing the meme that wealth inequality boils down to a simple matter of class envy. But that's not what award-winning economists and journalists are telling us. Take Pulitzer-prize winning tax reporter David Cay Johnston or UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, who have pointed out repeatedly that the unequal distribution of wealth in the US is a direct result of government policies,. If you have time for more than just the usual troll bait with sound bites, Johnston's analysis is well worth reading. Here's an excerpt:


"Starting in 1933, government policy aimed to improve the lot of the vast majority through such policies as massive government-financed jobs and construction programs. But since 1980 policy has focused on helping the already rich get richer still with such policies as lower taxes and fewer audits.

"The updated figures illustrating income changes, all in 2010 dollars, come from analysis of the latest IRS data by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty.

"Saez received the 2009 John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to the economist under 40 who has made the greatest contribution to that field, and a 2010 MacArthur genius grant.

"Their data expands on what I reported first last fall – median pay fell in 2010 to its lowest level since 1999.

"Saez and Piketty show that the vast majority’s average adjusted gross income, of which wages are just a part, was $29,840 in 2010. That was down $127 from 2009 and down $4,842 from 2000.

"Most shocking? The average income of the vast majority of taxpayers in 2010 was just a smidgen more than the $29,448 average way back in 1966.

"At the top, the super-rich saw their 2010 average income grow by $4.2 million over 2009 to $23.8 million. Compared to 1966 their income was up on average by $18.7 million per taxpayer.

"We should expect this pattern of concentrated gains weighted toward the very top to continue unless we change our policies.

"Saez shows that the top one percent’s share of real income growth is increasing with each economic expansion and it matters not whether the president is a Democrat or Republican. The top one percent enjoyed 45 percent of Clinton-era income growth, 65 percent of Bush-era growth and 93 percent of Obama-era growth, though that is only through 2010.

"While markets are a factor, I think the evidence makes clear that government policy is at the core of the differing fortunes of the vast majority and the super-rich.

"Inaugural addresses of Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama bring this into sharp focus. Both spoke of the need for restoring confidence, while denouncing greed and irresponsible conduct. Roosevelt in 1933 specified “callous and selfish wrongdoing” by bankers abusing a “sacred trust.” Obama vaguely referred to the “consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some.”

"Roosevelt said that “our greatest primary task is to put people to work.” Obama, again less specific, spoke of government that “helps families find jobs at a decent wage.”

"Roosevelt brought in trustbusters, reformers and even an expert at Wall Street manipulations to implement policies benefiting the vast majority.

"By contrast, while Obama called Wall Street executives “fat cats,” he surrounded himself with financial insiders with the exception of Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard bankruptcy expert now seeking election to the U.S. Senate. His administration has failed to prosecute the central figures in the frauds that created our economic distress.

"Government policy can change again and for the better. We can create a growing economy with widely shared prosperity."

Posted by Ana on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

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