“One of the lesson from startups is more measurement almost always leads to better decision making,” Altman says.
It’s no secret there is no love lost between Silicon Valley and Donald Trump. Of every dollar given by the Valley’s technology workers to presidential candidates after the primaries last year, only one penny went to Trump.
On issue after issue (except perhaps tax reform), the GOP and the technorati could not be farther apart. Some CEOs—like Tesla chief Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick—are hoping to direct U.S. policy from within, by joining Trump’s economic advisory team. Others plan to appraise Trump from the outside, including Sam Altman, president of the preeminent seed fund Y Combinator.
Altman, who has called Trump’s candidacy an “unprecedented threat,” is now backing Track Trump, a new site that aims to stack Trump’s actions as president against commitments he made in his Contract with the American Voter.
“One of the lesson from startups is more measurement almost always leads to better decision making,” Altman says. Track Trump’s “performance dashboard” will monitor the Trump administration across eight categories, from energy to immigration, and document the president’s follow-through on vows that include renegotiating NAFTA, labeling China a currency manipulator, approving the Keystone Pipeline, and canceling billions in payments to United Nations climate-change programs.
The nonpartisan site aims to rely on primary sources such as bills and executive orders whenever possible, and is being led by Peter Federman, a doctoral student studying democracy at the University of Kansas, and Alec Baum, a former Hillary Clinton organizer and current financial analyst at JP Morgan in Hong Kong. Altman plans to pay “whatever is needed” in operational costs.
“The most common thing I heard from people in Silicon Valley was they regret they didn’t get more involved in the election,” says Altman, who works closely with PayPal founder and Trump transition official Peter Thiel, who is a partner at Y Combinator. “I hope for the best and I wish [Trump] great success. He is our president now. But I plan to to be very watchful and I’m very nervous.”
Once Trump shows whether he’ll govern as he has campaigned, Altman says he’ll feel more comfortable assessing what comes next. For now he, like many in Silicon Valley, is taking a wait-and-see approach.
”I’m trying to focus on policy, and not at all on theatrics,” he says. “There’s a lot of talk about what should be done in the face of Trump’s presidency. A first good step is just to monitor what happens.”