Despite a historic inauguration, legendary investor Ellen Pao is not optimistic about tech's relationship with the new White House

  • Legendary investor Ellen Pao thinks Silicon Valley could butt heads with Biden's administration.
  • Tech has been "a big enabler and amplifier" of misinformation, she tells Insider.
  • Pao is a VC, former CEO of Reddit, and cofounder of tech diversity organization Project Include.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Legendary and sometimes controversial investor Ellen Pao has never been one to shy away from her opinions. 

She famously sued her former employer, Kleiner Perkins, in 2012 for gender discrimination. She lost the case but the conversations Pao started with the suit stirred Silicon Valley to look at gender inequality in tech, venture capital, and beyond.

Pao spoke exclusively with Insider on the eve of the historical inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States, and Kamala Harris as the first woman, and first woman of color, to serve as vice president. 

While she says she's optimistic that the new White House will have a more collaborative relationship with Silicon Valley, Pao says much of the damage has already been done by big tech companies that have been unregulated for too long.

"Tech was a big enabler and amplifier of these messages, and of the harm, and I don't know how we pull it back now," Pao told Insider. "And I don't know if the tech companies are aware of how much work it's going to be, and if they're willing to do it."

Read moreHow Silicon Valley banished Donald Trump in 48 hours

After years of resisting calls to take action against Donald Trump's social media accounts, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube moved swiftly to de-platform the president earlier this month after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in Washington DC. 

Twitter has made the Trump ban permanent, while Facebook has said its ban is indefinite, or at least until his term is over. On Tuesday, YouTube extended its previous ban for at least another week "in light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence."

Despite a new president in the White House, Pao does not expect big tech's relationship to change anytime soon. She also believes Trump should be banned permanently from these platforms.

"Tech companies are not good at self-regulating, and in fact they've been quite abysmal at it," she said. "So how do you build a relationship when one person has to regulate the other and the other doesn't want to be regulated and is pushing against it?" 

Moving forward, she thinks tech and Washington will have a more "civil and professional relationship," but she proceeded with caution. "I don't know that it's going to be a warm and friendly relationship," she said.

As a venture capital investor, former CEO of Reddit, and co-founder of Project Include, a non-profit focused on tech diversity and inclusion projects, Pao also has a message for founders or VC firms with ties to the Trump administration. For example, Cadre is a venture backed real estate tech startup co-founded by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Read more: Some of Trump's biggest Silicon Valley supporters are abandoning him after last week's deadly Capitol siege, but many continue to stay silent

"It's hard because the VC system is so broken. I would love to say, 'hey, founders, you shouldn't be working with people who fund-raised for Trump, who participated in his committees, and who didn't stand up to his policies,'" said Pao.

But it's also hard to raise money,  she admitted, so at the end of the day, her advice is to consider the options.

"If you have options, don't go for the people who have shown that they don't care about ethics and don't care about people," she said.

As for the founders and investors who are already involved with Trump related cap tables, she added, "that's your call, and I'm not going to judge you for it, but if you have options and you're taking money from the bad actor, that's on you."

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