Y Combinator’s Tan, VCs Pull Out of Web Summit Over Israel

Several venture capitalists cancelled plans to attend Web Summit following Paddy Cosgrave’s comments on the war.

(Bloomberg) — Y Combinator’s Garry Tan, Sequoia Capital’s Ravi Gupta and several other prominent venture capitalists cancelled plans to attend Web Summit, the biggest technology conference in Europe, following comments by the event’s chief executive officer that slammed western support for Israel after the Hamas attacks.

“I refuse to appear at Web Summit and am canceling my appearance,” Tan posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “I condemn Hamas and pray for peace for the Israeli and Palestinian people.”

Other investors, including Andreessen Horowitz General Partner Alex Rampell and Accel partner Philippe Botteri, along with several tech executives based in Israel announced they would no longer attend the event. 

Paddy Cosgrave, who heads the event, issued an apology on Tuesday morning. “I understand that what I said, the timing of what I said, and the way it has been presented has caused profound hurt to many,” he said in a post on X. “To anyone who was hurt by my words, I apologise deeply.”

Web Summit hosts a series of events throughout the year, the largest of which is scheduled to take place in Lisbon next month. Another is slated to take place in Qatar in February. Cosgrave initially posted about the conflict last week and reiterated the sentiment in subsequent posts.

“I’m shocked at the rhetoric and actions of so many Western leaders & governments, with the exception in particular of Ireland’s government, who for once are doing the right thing. War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are,” Cosgrave posted on Oct. 13 on X. “Israel has a right to defend itself, but it does not, as I have already stated, have a right to break international law.” 

Nine investors cancelled and 35 new investors registered in the past day, while ticket sales on Oct. 16 were the highest of any Monday this year, Cosgrave said on Tuesday on X. He didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

Political controversy has dogged Web Summit in the past. Last year the conference withdrew an invitation to panelists from the Grayzone after backlash over the website’s perceived anti-Ukrainian bias. Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska was the keynote speaker at that event. 

Several prominent Silicon Valley leaders are slated to speak at the Lisbon event, including Meta Platforms Inc. policy chief Nick Clegg and Vishal Sharma, a vice president at Amazon.com Inc. Representatives from Meta and Amazon didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

–With assistance from Mark Bergen.

(Updates with CEO apology in fourth paragraph.)

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