Photo: Darrell Glasco
We recently wrote about the lack of African Americans in Silicon Valley, and received an overwhelming response from readers over comments by University of Connecticut assistant professor Maya Beasley, who attributes the lack of representation to self-segregation.To get more perspective, we spoke with Darrell Glasco, a strategy consultant who spent nearly a decade working with VC funds, including Battery Ventures, NEA, Novak Biddle, JMI Equity and FT Ventures.
Early in his career, he only met the founders and always assumed there were African Americans connected to these companies somewhere “behind the scenes” — perhaps a lawyer or investor working alongside the founders. But Glasco soon learned that any profession connected to the tech industry was dominated by young, white males.
“In tech, the thought among African Americans is, ‘No, we’re not going into the white profession,'” Glasco told us. “And the reason why is due to a number of internal and external factors. … There’s such a lack of knowledge of the potential impact this industry can have. We’ve been so focused on civil rights issue, but that’s not our battle ground anymore. Now it’s more on the economic side.”
In 2010, less than one per cent of all venture capital money went to African American founders for startups while 87 per cent went to white entrepreneurs, according to industry analyst CB Insights.
Ansley Rice Sudderth, a 25-year-old working in social media, says that African American universities don’t put enough focus on technology education. “Traditionally, in the black community, there’s a lot of culture, a lot of occupation traditions that you’re encouraged to follow, such as becoming a doctor or a lawyer, and other professions that will make your family proud,” Sudderth, who is bi-racial, told us. “Maybe the fear comes from breaking the mould or breaking through an industry where the majority of people are either white or Asian.”
Mitch Kapor, founder of Kapor Capital, told Soledad O’Brien in the documentary Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley that the tech industry isn’t “immune to cultural biases”:
I have not been in the room recently when somebody said, ‘Oh, that’s an African-American-led company; I’m not going to invest there,’ but I guarantee you, from personal experience, that’s what people are thinking…The part that is meritocratic is great – and there’s a big part of it that isn’t. And so, please, let’s not fool ourselves and pretend otherwise in some self-congratulatory kind of way.
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