Silicon Valley success Gary Tan, who inspired many of the entrepreneurs he mentored, is once again garnering attention for his posts on social platform X.
On Friday night, Y Combinator's president, investor and former founder published a post that had some wondering if his X account had been hacked. Addressing seven San Francisco supervisors overseeing the delivery of local government services, Tan wrote: “Fuck Chan Peskin Preston Walton Melger Ronen Safai Chan as a label and motherfucking staff … and if you don't work as staff with Peskin Preston Walton Melger Ronen Safai Chan then fuck you too … die slow motherfuckers. “
The exchange, first reported this weekend by the outlet Mission Local, came after one follower of Tan on X wrote, “I think Gary got beat up. I'm here for that,” Tan responded. “You're right and motherfuck our enemies.”
The post and comment are extreme for their violent tone. Tan later apologized for them, saying, “I thought everyone would get the rap reference, but it was a good call, reference or not – sorry!”
In 1996, he cited the song “Hit 'Em Up” by legendary West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur as a rap reference, which took aim at Tupac's then-rival, East Coast rapper Notorious B.I.G.
Tan also published a more formal apology to the Board of Supervisors, saying, “There is no place, excuse, or reason for this type of speech and inflammatory language. . . I know the community will hold me accountable and focus on our true mission: making San Francisco a vibrant, prosperous and safe place.
District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melger told Mission Local that the comments were “rattling” as a mother. “I don't know what I did to get on this guy's list,” she told the outlet. “I've never met him.”
TechCrunch reached out to Tan for comment this evening and has yet to hear back. TechCrunch also reached out to Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham this evening and did not receive a response.
Tan was named Y Combinator's newest president in August 2022, following the brief reign of his predecessor, Geoff Ralston.
Both have longstanding ties to Y Combinator. Ralston, who joined YC as a partner in 2011, was named its president in 2019 after the outfit's high-profile president, Sam Altman, stepped down after a five-year run to take the reins at OpenAI. (A more recent Washington Post story reported that Altman's hand was forced by concerns over his personal investments in YC companies, as well as his increased focus on ventures outside of YC, including OpenAI. Altman may have seen the writing on the wall, too, telling this editor at a 2019 event: “ If I could control the market — of course the free market is going to do its thing — I wouldn't be able to raise the amount of money YC companies raise or at the valuations they do.”)
Tan himself is a partner at YC 2011 to 2015 after completing an accelerator program in 2008. He recently co-founded Initialized Capital with another former YC partner, Alexis Ohanian, before returning to head the firm.
Tan's personal story is an inspiring one. Growing up as the child of immigrants, the San Francisco native said the family didn't always have enough food to eat, and dinner was sometimes bread and milk. According to Tan, he learned to make web pages and got his first job after “”.Call the yellow pages.” He graduated from Stanford, became an entrepreneur, and an investor, enjoying incredible success thanks to early bets including Coinbase, which he first wrote a check for in 2012.
In the background, Tan has long produced instructional YouTube videos for entrepreneurs, including one called “How to Get Rich the Real Way,” and another called “Wasting Your Life.”
In the videos, Tan plays the role of Rishi. Meanwhile, Tan, amiable in person, is increasingly struggling on social media, drawing attention in unexpected ways to himself and – through his character – the Y Combinator. Last fall, for example, X, a small startup founded in 2017 called Neo, launched Tan Heat Exchange with an accelerator program that raised $600 million from investors and funded 175 companies. Some people are throwing punches and asked why they are bothering. (Y Combinator, founded in 2005, has raised billions of dollars from investors and funded thousands of companies.)
Tan also spoke openly about personal grievances against X, as well as growing animosity toward progressive politicians in San Francisco, whom Tan blamed for many of the city's visible and other problems.
All may be par for the course in a world where even social media has evolved into something of a toxic cesspool.
Still, given Tan's position as president of the world's most powerful startup program, one would be surprised if he doesn't go far this weekend. Certainly, telling politicians to “die” – even during an alleged drunken rebellion – was an act that caused some discomfort within the YC.
Another option is to not take him too seriously, which some seem to be doing, at least openly.
An entrepreneur and investor who knows Tan, who defended Tan's actions Friday night during an exchange with TechCrunch earlier today, said, “It's dumb, but he's human and deserves an apology.”