HomeBusinessMarketMatch.com founder Gary Kremen has pivoted to local politics, and lit a...

Match.com founder Gary Kremen has pivoted to local politics, and lit a fire in Silicon Valley assessor’s race

The man who fought a infamous decade-long authorized battle for the rights to the Sex.com area is engaged in a brand new combat that’s turning into simply as offbeat: The proper to determine how a lot the Apple Inc. campus is price.

Former tech govt Gary Kremen has waged an aggressive marketing campaign for assessor of Santa Clara County — on the coronary heart of California’s Silicon Valley — and is questioning the technical {qualifications} of long-time incumbent Larry Stone, who, in flip, has accused the founding father of Match.com of “hijacking” his private e mail listing of 1,300 contacts.

“He [Stone] lives in a horse-and-buggy world vs. cars; mainframe computers vs. PCs; Sears vs. Amazon,” Kremen mentioned. “He hasn’t adapted to the digital economy, and that hurts homeowners and renters.” To drive house his level, one among Kremen’s marketing campaign tag traces is, “Getting us out of the Stone age.”

“People don’t understand why he [Kremen] is running. He has no qualifications for this job at all. It’s kind of humorous,” Stone, who has been county assessor for 27 years and is in search of his eighth time period, advised MarketWatch. “He seems to look at this job as a stepping stone, perhaps to become California governor.”

It will get weirder.

Stone is able to play hardball to make his level. He is letting the citizens learn about Kremen’s colourful background because the onetime proprietor of the area Sex.com, who engaged in a decade-long battle for its rights with infamous web businessman Stephen Michael Cohen. “This guy was engaged in pornography, and voters frown about that,” Stone mentioned. Kremen brushes off Stone’s assertion as traditional hit-piece politics for a business chapter in his profession that occurred some twenty years in the past.

Just one other slice of Silicon Valley life.

The unlikely race is occurring as a result of Kremen — a skilled engineer who obtained an MBA from close by Stanford University and based on-line relationship web site Match.com in 1994 (he left the corporate two years later, and received just $50,000 after the location was later offered) — has lately pivoted to public service. To that finish, he has invested in varied initiatives for residential photo voltaic financing, introduced credit score to the underbanked, and helped oversee mentorship applications. Along the way in which, he has served on the Purissima (Calif.) Hills Water District, and was elected to the Santa Clara Valley Water District board of administrators in 2014.

In the months resulting in the June 7 election, each candidates have established battle traces that illustrate the decades-long divide between the high-tech trade and native politicians — a niche that extends to the present nationwide debate over antitrust laws to rein in Big Tech. Neither facet appears to grasp, or respect, each other.

“Why can’t more tech people give back?” Kremen advised MarketWatch. “I started at the bottom, the absolute lowest level, in a town’s [Los Altos Hills, Calif.] landscaping committee, then moved on to the local water district there… People in tech are spending money but doing nothing on the local level.”

Quixotic journeys are nothing new for Kremen; in truth, it’s acquainted floor. For the higher a part of a decade, he engaged in an odyssey over Sex.com. In the early years of the World Wide Web, Kremen registered a variety of accessible domains, Sex.com amongst them. In 1998, Kremen sued Stephen Michael Cohen for allegedly stealing the rights to Sex.com, accusing him of dishonest Kremen out of thousands and thousands of {dollars} in e-commerce gross sales. Thus started a sequence of fits and countersuits that learn like a Jackie Collins potboiler. Kremen ultimately gained a $65 million judgement, however didn’t a accumulate a penny from Cohen, who has served a number of stints in jail and is now working a web-based drug firm.

Cohen, who has maintained a low profile for years, couldn’t be reached for remark.

Stone, who as mayor and a metropolis councilmember in Sunnyvale, Calif., within the Seventies and ’80s helped mould the city right into a Silicon Valley scorching spot, is gobsmacked by Kremen’s candidacy.

One of the assessors workplace’s features is to estimate county property values, which jumped virtually 5% to a document $577 billion final 12 months. “I extremely doubt [Kremen] can assess the worth of the Apple
AAPL
spaceship or Levi’s Stadium,” house of the San Francisco 49ers, mentioned Stone, who has greater than 50 years of real-estate expertise. “These are complicated decisions. I am stunned by how little he knows about the job.”

The animus runs deep, main Stone to accuse Kremen of “hacking” his private e mail listing of some 1,300 mates, household, business associates and elected officers. Kremen mentioned a county official whom he declined to call shared Stone’s listing with him after Stone copied it in an e mail. “He [Stone] doesn’t understand the difference between CC and BCC,” Kremen mentioned, laughing.

Kremen later chortled on the accusation he’s angling for a run at California governor. “That is laughable!” he mentioned. “I never thought of it. So funny.”

“I hope to think of this as a story of technology giving back,” Kremen mentioned. “That is my only intent.”

Kremen, who maintains Stone is a luddite hopelessly behind the instances in technology use, calls the opposition analysis “salacious shit” and why most individuals — notably tech executives — steer clear of public service.

“People in tech are spending money but nothing more, doing nothing, with the exception of [venture capitalist] Peter Thiel,” mentioned Kremen, in reference to the co-founder PayPal Holdings Inc.
PYPL
and Palantir Technologies Inc.
PLTR
who lately stepped down from the board of Facebook proprietor Meta Platforms Inc.
FB
to marketing campaign on behalf of conservative candidates through the 2022 midterm elections. “How many are doing anything at the local level? Very few.”

Tech executives have a star-crossed monitor document operating for public workplace in California. In 2010, former eBay Inc.
EBAY
Chief Executive Meg Whitman misplaced the gubernatorial race to Democrat Jerry Brown regardless of spending $140 million of her fortune, whereas then-Hewlett-Packard Co.
HPQ
CEO Carly Fiorina, got here up quick towards then-U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. (Whitman was nominated by President Joe Biden to function U.S. ambassador to Kenya in December 2021.)

A decades-long schism on full show

The hardball techniques pitting Kremen towards Stone vividly crystallizes the decades-long friction between Silicon Valley and native authorities. Where tech executives flout their experience as a method to carry antiquated techniques into the digital age, long-serving public officers scoff on the conceitedness of overhauling complicated authorities techniques so simply.

“We see this dynamic play out in areas of government in California: Someone with a little technical know-how vows to make sweeping changes,” Garrick Percival, chair of the political science division at San Jose State University, advised MarketWatch. “The problem is that government processes don’t present easy solutions. These are built in for a reason. Change isn’t so easy.”

While Kremen has expressed a need to use his engineering expertise to enhance efficiencies on the assessor’s workplace, Stone contends the Santa Clara Valley Water District has the “reputation of being the most mismanaged government agency in the county” — an accusation Kremen dismissively laughs off.

As a lot as something, Stone is making an attempt to make Kremen the main focus of the race. Internal polling, primarily based on a web-based survey of two,400 folks, exhibits a “very negative reaction” to Kremen, in response to Stone. County assessor is “just the wrong job for him,” Stone mentioned. “He should run for the board of supervisors, which is political. He is portraying me as being here too long. That is an asset, not a liability. You want experience and integrity for this job.”

Still, campaign-finance paperwork present Stone has spent round $275,000 on his marketing campaign vs. $170,000 for Kremen. Stone has obtained about $55,000 in donations, in contrast with $71,000 for Kremen. Each has produced an extended listing of endorsements.

For Kremen, who dueled with Cohen for years in court docket and within the press, the back-and-forth is all simply par for the course.

Indeed, it’s Kremen’s eclectic — some may argue, perplexing — profession path that make him a compelling, if not divisive, character.

“The thing about Gary that makes him so interesting is he is someone who iterates — with varying degrees of success. For people, it can be bewildering for him to go into seemingly disparate areas,” mentioned David Kushner, creator of “The Players Ball: A Genius, a Con Man, and the Secret History of the Internet’s Rise,” which chronicled Kremen’s combat with Cohen over the Sex.com area.

Read extra: A New Book Revisits the Bizarre Silicon Valley Saga of Sex.com

“He sees around corners, and has the guts to place bets on himself,” Kushner advised MarketWatch. As an engineer, Kremen has a hacker mindset in how techniques work, and arising with options, he added.

“Gary owns who he is; he always has,” Kushner mentioned.

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