Heather Kuldell | Nextgov | March 6, 2017 | 0 Comments

White House Selects Deputy CTO From Peter Thiel’s Rolodex

Entrepreneur Peter Thiel speaks during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Thursday, July 21, 2016. J. Scott Applewhite//AP

One of PayPal's cofounders and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel’s aides will step into the role of White House deputy chief technology officer.

The White House tapped Michael Kratsios, principal and chief of staff at Thiel Capital, for the post in the Office of Science and Technology, according to Politico. Kratsios’ prior roles include chief financial officer and chief compliance officer at Clarium Capital Management—another Thiel-funded investment firm—and roles as an analyst at Lyford Group International and Barclays Capital.

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Choosing someone with a background in venture capital breaks from the technology company and long-time government executives the Obama administration preferred since creating a CTO role in 2009. Aneesh Chopra, the first CTO, previously served as Virginia secretary of technology; Todd Park was an entrepreneur and had worked as Health and Human Services Department CTO; and the most recent CTO, Megan Smith, worked as Google vice president of business development. Deputy CTOs and other senior advisers were plucked from tech firms, such as former deputy CTOs Alexander Macgillivray (Twitter) and Nicole Wong (Google).

The White House has yet to name a new federal CTO. Though part of the Obama administration’s legacy includes creating White House-based executive roles dedicated to technology, the new administration can add or drop titles and offices to align with its priorities.

So far, President Donald Trump has named Reed Cordish, a Baltimore real-estate developer, as assistant to the president for intragovernmental and technology initiatives, and Gerrit Lansing as his chief digital officer. Lansing, however, left the role after failing the security background check.

While Thiel has said he won’t take a job in Trump’s administration, he is part of the transition team. Thiel arranged Trump’s high-profile first meeting with prominent tech executives from Google, Apple and other companies that publicly supported Hillary Clinton, though the attendees also included one private company, Palatir, which Thiel founded. He reportedly got Yale computer scientist David Gelernter in front of Trump to be considered as his science adviser, as will as various former employees placed on transition teams at the Defense and Treasury departments.

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