Keith Rabois: DeSantis policies 'should be copied in every state'

Since Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a sweeping anti-LGBTQ+ bill in May of this year, some members of the state’s LGBTQ+ community are packing up and relocating to parts of the country where they feel safer and enjoy unrestricted access to healthcare.  

One of the Sunshine State’s most high-profile LGBTQ+ residents, however, has nothing but praise for DeSantis, whose policies include blocking gender-affirming care for minors and banning teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity with students in pre-kindergarten through eight grade. 

“I want to say very clearly that my husband and I are significant supporters of the Governor and all his policies,” Keith Rabois, a general partner at venture capital firm Founders Fund, said Tuesday at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Deer Valley Utah. Rabois, who lives in Miami with his husband Jacob Helberg, an author and Stanford University senior adviser, added: “We think what he’s doing in Florida is the recipe that should be copied in every state. Period, without exception.” 

Rabois was speaking alongside Miami Mayor Francis Suarez in a discussion about the city’s goal of becoming a hub for entrepreneurship as some tech companies shift their headquarters away from Silicon Valley to places with lower taxes and more affordable rents. According to data from PitchBook, Silicon Valley still ranked first last year in terms of venture-capital investments and the number of deals. However, funding for companies in Miami has nearly quadrupled in the past three years. (In 2022, Miami ranked eighth in the country for venture capital with $5.5 billion flooding into the city across 423 deals.) 

Suarez, who is also running for the Republican presidential nomination, has previously expressed support for Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law first signed by DeSantis in 2022 and expanded in May. Yet, speaking Tuesday, the two-term mayor stated that some of DeSantis’ policies are “impacting the state negatively,” and that he wants to differentiate himself from the politics of his presidential rival. In particular, he cited DeSantis’ legal battle with The Walt Disney Co., Florida’s largest employer, over allegations that the Governor is retaliating against the company for speaking out against his LGBTQ+ agenda. DeSantis took over Disney World’s self-governing district through legislation passed by lawmakers. He also appointed a new board of supervisors. In response, Disney pulled out of a roughly $1 billion investment in Florida by scrapping plans to build a new campus in the state. 

“I got the calls from people who have decided not to come here [because of] the fight with Disney over a variety of issues,” Suarez said. “I’ve talked about it publicly. Miami is a different place to the rest of Florida. We’re extremely welcoming to all companies and I think it is something that I’m different on and I’m proud to be.” 

As workers consider relocating to different areas of the country as a result of hybrid work arrangements, the clash between conservative and progressive policies are increasingly coming to the fore. During a panel discussion at Brainstorm Tech on Monday, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince cited Utah’s “exclusionary” culture for hindering the state’s efforts to become a tech hub.

Rabois denied that DeSantis’ hostility towards the LGBTQ+ community risks dissuading companies and top talent from setting up shop in Miami. On the contrary, he said that he knows of gay and lesbian tech workers who are flocking to the city because they and their families feel more secure there than they do in San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York City.   

“One of the easiest ways you get people to move to Miami is you tell them to come and visit for a weekend,” he said. “They walk outside and they’re safe. They’re not accosted by homeless people. They don’t see drugs on the street… I can name every single week someone in the Bay Area that I know who is a victim of crime. How in the world can you build a family or a company that way?” 

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