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Thiel’s Founders Fund Withdrew Millions From Silicon Valley Bank

(Bloomberg) -- Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund had no money with Silicon Valley Bank as of Thursday morning as the bank descended into chaos, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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Founders Fund withdrew millions from SVB, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. It joined other venture funds that took dramatic steps to limit exposure to the now-failed financial institution. Founders Fund also advised its portfolio companies that there was no downside to moving their money away from SVB, even if the risk was low.

Founders Fund acted in other ways to move its business away from SVB. On Thursday, as the bank was beginning to unravel, the firm started what’s known as a capital call. That’s a run-of-the-mill activity in the venture capital world, in which a VC firm asks its investors, or limited partners, to send it money in order to make investments in startups — the core function of most VC firms. It began by asking those backers to transfer the funds to accounts at SVB, as it has done for years, the person said.

But the firm learned that its limited partners were encountering issues using SVB services as they tried to transfer the funds — they weren’t immediately going through as expected, the person said.

Quickly, Founders Fund asked its investors to transfer the money to other banks instead. The fund acted to ensure that startup funding deals that were slated to close in the coming days were not delayed, the person said.

Today, Founders Fund has no exposure to SVB. The person did not say if the firm’s cash withdrawals happened on Thursday, as the startup world was panicking about SVB’s financial position, or earlier.

Founders Fund went further than many other venture firms, which kept some money with Silicon Valley Bank in order to maintain a relationship with the institution. This week, as panic turned into a bank run, some venture firms suggested that the tech industry had a moral imperative not to abandon SVB.

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