A venture capital firm based in San Francisco has terminated one of its co-founders for divisive comments he made on X.
Kenneth Ballenegger, a partner at Oyster Ventures, compared the Israel-Hamas conflict to China’s treatment of people in Xinjiang on his personal account.
“After the war, Israel should handle Gaza like China handles Xinjiang,” he wrote according to screenshots. “Full surveillance state. Re education camps. Sterilizations. It’s warranted and the only way to pacify the jihadi population.”
When criticized by a colleague, Bellenegger said that the Palestinians “reproduce like rabbits and raise them to be terrorists, creating more poverty misery and terrorism.”
“Why should we allow that,” he continued. “The world would be a much better place if they didn’t reproduce.”
According to his now-removed bio on the firm’s website, Ballenegger is an active angel investor in more than 70 companies. He previously worked as the co-founder and CTO of the Bitcoin debit card FreshPay. He’s also held executive positions with Republic Crypto, AngelList and Chartboost.
The company initially released a statement on X on Nov. 13 saying that “any employee’s personal or political opinion does not reflect the values of Oyster Ventures.”
Sophie Liao, another co-founder of the venture capital firm, then issued a longer apology on Linkedin calling Ballenegger’s post “appalling.”
“There is no room for the advocacy of hatred or violence,” she said. “With the support of Oyster Ventures’ leadership team, we have since made a decision to remove Kenneth Ballenegger as a partner in the firm. This process will take time, but please be assured that Kenneth has been suspended immediately and these proceedings are underway.”
“On a personal note, as someone who survived and grew up under China’s one-child policy, it’s awful to see such a callous comparison made between such complex political environments,” Liao added. “My heart goes out to all those who are suffering due to the conflict in Gaza. It is a human tragedy of immense proportions, and every day that innocent lives are lost is a day too long.”
The executive at Oyster Venture will make a joint donation to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cresent Societies to aid humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza.
“The blowback over Ballenegger’s comments… reflect ongoing tensions in the tech world. Israel is a major player in the global startup ecosystem, and raises billions annually in venture capital, with particular strengths in cybersecurity, defense, and AI,” reports Business Insider. “The venture capital world has largely vocally supported Israel. Hundreds of firms signed a statement in support of Israel after Hamas’ terrorist attacks on October 7.”