Garry Tan, whose success in Silicon Valley has likely inspired many of the founders he mentors, is once again attracting attention for his posts on the social platform X.
On Friday night, the Y Combinator president, investor and former entrepreneur published a post that might have prompted some to wonder if his X account was hacked. Wrote Tan, addressing seven San Francisco supervisors who oversee the delivery of local government services: "Fuck Chan Peskin Preston Walton Melgar Ronen Safai Chan as a label and motherfucking crew ... And if you are down with Peskin Preston Walton Melgar Ronen Safai Chan as a crew fuck you too ... Die slow motherfuckers."
The exchange, first reported on this weekend by the outlet Mission Local, notes that after one follower of Tan on X wrote, "i think garry is hammered. i'm here for it," Tan responded "you are right and motherfuck our enemies."
The post and comment are jarring for their violent tone. Tan later apologized for them, writing that he "thought everyone would get the rap reference but that wasn’t a good call, reference or not - sorry!"
Tan also published a more formal apology to the board of supervisors, writing that "there is no place, no excuse and no reason for this type of speech and charged language in discourse. . . I know the community will hold me accountable and keep focused on our true mission: making San Francisco a vibrant, prosperous and safe place."
District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar 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 earlier this evening and has yet to hear back. TechCrunch also reached out to Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham earlier this evening and has not received a response.
Tan was tapped to become Y Combinator's newest president in August 2022, after the brief reign of his predecessor, Geoff Ralston.
Both men have longstanding ties to Y Combinator. Ralston, who joined YC as a partner in 2011, was appointed its president in 2019 when the outfit's higher-profile president, Sam Altman, stepped down after a five-year run to take up the reins at OpenAI. (A more recent Washington Post story reported that Altman's hand was forced because of concerns tied to his personal investments in YC companies, as well as his growing attention to projects outside of YC, including OpenAI. Altman may also have seen the writing on the wall, telling this editor during a 2019 event: "If I could control the market — obviously the free market is going to do its thing — I would not have YC companies raise the amounts of money they raise or at the valuations they do.")
Tan was himself a partner at YC from 2011 to 2015 after going through the accelerator program in 2008. He later formed Initialized Capital with another former YC partner, Alexis Ohanian, before returning to head the organization more recently.
Tan's personal story is an uplifting one. The Canadian-born San Francisco resident has said that growing up as the child of immigrants, the family didn't always have enough food to eat, and that dinner was sometimes bread and milk. According to Tan, he learned to make web pages and landed his first job creating these for a customer after "cold calling the Yellow Pages." He went on to graduate from Stanford, become a founder and, as an investor, has enjoyed staggering success owing to early bets that include Coinbase, to which he first wrote a check in 2012.
In the background, Tan has long produced instructional YouTube videos for founders, including one titled "How to Get Rich the Real Way," and another titled "Stop Wasting Your Life."
In the videos, Tan plays the sage. Meanwhile Tan, who is amiable in person, has become increasingly combative on social media, drawing attention to himself in unexpected ways and -- by dint of his role -- Y Combinator. Last fall, for example, on X, Tan initiated a heated exchange with a smaller startup accelerator program, Neo, which was founded in 2017, has raised $600 million from investors and funded 175 companies. Some thought he was punching down and questioned why he would bother. (Y Combinator, founded in 2005, has raised billions of dollars from investors and funded thousands of companies.)
Tan has also been open about personal grievances on X, as well as become increasingly hostile toward progressive politicians in San Francisco, who Tan blames for many of the city's woes, both visible and otherwise.
All may be par for the course in a world where social media itself has evolved into something of a toxic cesspool.
Still, given Tan's position as the president of the most powerful startup program in the world, one wonders if he didn't go too far this weekend. Certainly, telling politicians to "die" -- even if during an alleged drunken tirade -- is a move that must make some inside of YC uncomfortable.
Another choice is to not take him very seriously, which some appear to be doing, at least publicly.
As said one founder and investor who knows Tan and who, during an exchange with TechCrunch earlier today, defended Tan's actions of Friday night, "This was dumb, but he's human and deserves forgiveness."