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Silicon Valley has much bigger problems than Peter Thiel, tech investor says

It's misogyny and getting rich — not just politics — that have cast a shadow over the culture in tech

The past year has revealed enormous challenges in Silicon Valley, but the political divide around Peter Thiel isn't one of them, Roger McNamee, co-founder of Elevation Partners, told CNBC's "Squawk Alley" on Tuesday.

Misogyny and greed are both rampant in tech's heartland, said McNamee, a technology investor. But McNamee said he's not at all bothered that Thiel is a Trump supporter.

"I think he's right in the diagnosis, wrong in the prescription for what to do about it," McNamee said. "But that's my political view against his, and we're both entitled to those views."

The bigger issue? Many entrepreneurs are now financially motivated, rather than by an optimism to take risks and improve the world, McNamee said.

"I think people in Silicon Valley are still open to change," McNamee said. "But the things that they're working on aren't as valuable as the things people used to work on. And sadly, we've seen far more fraud in the past couple of years than I can remember any time in the 34 years I've been here. And so I think people just want to get rich now, and scams have become part of what goes on in Silicon valley and that troubles me deeply."

Peter Thiel
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Peter Thiel

Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies, has incited backlash with a more than $1 million donation to Trump. Thiel said on Monday that Trump provides an outside viewpoint to decades of "bubble" thinking, and that Trump supporters don't always take the Republican candidate's divisive comments as literally as the media.

Prominent Silicon Valley figures like Ellen Pao have condemned Thiel's alignment with Trump, citing the real estate mogul's attacks on racial minorities and women. But McNamee said he doesn't think Thiel is responsible for an increased politicization in the Valley.

"People have stepped back, if anything," McNamee said. "The Valley has a real misogyny problem ... a lot of the people in the Valley who supported Barack Obama have been reluctant to support Hillary Clinton. And I think it is just part of this very deep-seeded misogyny that the Valley has been struggling with for decades."

McNamee said the shift comes as the industry has lost its central values.

"If you want to get rich really quickly, this is where you come," McNamee said. "It's been a real change in the culture. And Peter Thiel was one of the early leaders of that new wave and one of the most successful players in it. And I would actually suggest that while the typical person in Silicon Valley is a northern California liberal, the people in the entrepreneur class and in the senior management class are not. And I think there's a very deep libertarian streak there."

As a consequence, political engagement has historically been less important to Silicon Valley than it would be to executives in other parts of the country, McNamee said.

"I respect Peter Thiel's right to have his own political views, no matter how much I may disagree with them," McNamee said. "I'm not bothered by that part at all. My issues with Peter Thiel much more relate to corporate governance, and having his views associated with businesses I would like to invest in, which I think can do better without him."