Social media app Parler is the new darling of conservatives, backed by a successful tech angel investor and a pro-Trump pundit. It hopes to raise more money soon.

  • Conservatives increasingly see new social media app Parler as a safe haven to express their political opinions. The app is touted by Republican politicians like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. 
  • Following the election, Parler made it to the top of the App Store, buoyed by campaigns which falsely claimed that Democrats "stole" the presidential election.
  • Parler has been close-lipped about its investors but Business Insider took a look at the two investors who have publicly said they've backed it: Dan Bongino and Jeffrey Wernick.
  • They share deep suspicions of big tech platforms like Twitter, which they believe police free speech.
  • Parler's CEO says he's looking to raise money from institutional investors as well. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Social media app Parler has become all the rage lately among a certain brand of conservative: namely pro-Trump supporters who refuse to accept that Joe Biden won the presidency.

The app touted by Republican politicians like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul made it to the top of the App Store in the days following the election, branding itself as a "free speech" platform, an alternative to Twitter and Facebook.

Part of that surge comes from Trump supporters who have joined "Stop the Steal," a Parler group that falsely claims Democrats "stole" the presidential election.  

The app is currently free to use and doesn't yet generate much revenue. Its CEO John Matze told CNBC in July it plans to sell advertising, particularly through influencer deals, to make money.  

Still, as the app surges in popularity, the company will have bills to pay. It appears to be using Amazon Web Services to host the app, according to an examination of its internet URL and domain name info. AWS charges monthly fees based on usage. When asked about AWS, COO Jeffrey Wernick told Business Insider that the company does not disclose its relationships with third party vendors.

The company also appears to employ about two dozen people, according to information on LinkedIn, but Wernick told us that such information was outdated and declined to say how many employees it currently has.

There's understandably lots of hype around Parler, so who exactly is funding the app?

Matze told CNBC in June that he hoped to soon raise the startup's first major round of financing from institutional investors, although he said that might be difficult given Parler's right-wing crowd.  

"I can only speculate that they wouldn't be interested unless they're ideological," he said, referring to more traditional venture investors. 

Until that round happens, the company is being funded by a network of angel investors — most of whom are undisclosed. We do know two of them: COO Wernick himself and former police officer and Fox News commentator Dan Bongino.

Here's a closer look at these two figures — and the grievances they hold against big tech that motivated their decisions to back the controversial social media startup. 

Wernick fears big tech has "colonized" the Web

Wernick publicly announced his investment in Parler, which he called an "investment in liberty," in a Fox News op-ed published in July. In that op-ed, he wrote that the Web was meant to decentralize access and power but was being "colonized" by Twitter and Facebook.

Wernick is a successful angel investor having made early bets on Uber and Airbnb.

Parler, he said, was part of a broader series of his investments in companies he believed were "building an alternative ecosystem to the tech oligarchs."

Such thinking also motivated Wernick's early investment in Bitcoin, which he described to Business Insider in 2018 as a "people's money" that could help combat wealth inequality in America. 

A day after major media outlets declared Biden president, Wernick cowrote an op-ed in the Washington Times criticizing Twitter for flagging tweets that challenged election results, saying that it interfered with Americans' ability to independently challenge the authority of government officials. 

Bongino is best known for his punditry

In June, Parler released a statement that Dan Bongino was taking an ownership stake and leadership role at Parler. The statement featured praise from Wernick who wrote that Bongino was "the single most articulate, intelligent and powerful voice standing up to Technofascism." 

A former NYC police officer and Secret Service agent, Bongino unsuccessfully ran for Congress three times as a Republican before becoming a political pundit talk show host and a favorite of pro-Trump conservatives across the country. Bongino not respond to our request for comment.

He first appeared regularly with Alex Jones on radio and online show Infowars, where opined his wish that Obama would be impeached and helped Infowars peddle the kind of conspiracy theories that it became known for, according to an analysis by Media Matters, a nonprofit watchdog that scrutinizes right-leaning political outlets. 

He then landed his own show on NRA TV, the National Rifle Association's former online media site. 

After the 2016 election, Bongino became a top contributor for Fox News, saying in 2018 that "my life is all about owning the libs now." Part of that battle is opposing big tech, which he accuses of tamping down on conservative speech.

In the days leading up to the election, Bongino stoked conservative fears of Democrats on Election Day and in the days since, he's challenged Biden's victory, questioning the integrity of ballot counting in Pennsylvania, although Trump's team has yet to produce evidence and Philadelphia's Republican city commissioner says such claims are false. 

Regardless of his opinions on the election, Bongino is perhaps justifiably excited about the future of Parler. He applauded Parler's surge in new downloads tweeting that its new users are giving the middle finger emoji to the "tech tyrants at Twitter."

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