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An alternative is to say things and let your friends pass them on anonymously.

Things very wise and/or experienced VCs/founders have told me which I'm sure they wouldn't publish, which I have valued very much:

* If you don't look like a stereotypical founder, you won't follow the stereotypical path; that's not a problem, it's just a difference. Pursue your dream from first principles.

* The difference between flirting and friendly is perception, not purpose - don't worry about seeming aloof and don't take it the wrong way when pursued (to a point).

* Never come out until/unless absolutely necessary. Especially not to gay men.

* Absolutely don't talk about your young children with investors, especially if the investor has children of their own.

* The other side of not being perceived as a highly technical co-founder (which I am) because of my gender/appearance is that I'm more easily seen as a people person or product owner (which I'm very much not). It's ok to take advantage of that.

* I don't look enough like a founder to get angel/seed; I should make my money as a co-founder then self-fund through series-A, which tends to work out better regardless.

* Never, ever speak at a conference/on a panel about diversity. Your online identity defines your future opportunities, and the diversity racket is awfully small.

(Many more too specific or nuanced to include here.)




Some of these make a lot of intuitive sense, but I have questions about others.

What is the consequence of coming out to gay men? What counts as absolutely necessary?

How much of a role does flirting play in the business dealings of founders?


> What is the consequence of coming out to gay men?

Out gay people are both more likely to out someone and more likely to have complicated feelings about others preferring not to be outed.

> What counts as absolutely necessary?

It's always better to come out than be outed.

> How much of a role does flirting play in the business dealings of founders?

Ideally none. Unfortunately when you're a woman in her 20's courting men in their 30's as investors, the rituals often overlap with romantic overture. (suggesting coffee, discussing deals/valuation over dinner, feigning interest in their opinion or soliciting advice, grooming, etc.) The point is not that it's ok to flirt, the point is that it's ok (and not your fault) to be perceived as flirting. Too many female entrepreneurs avoid approaching male VCs because they're afraid of being misinterpreted.


If you are feigning interest the opinion of an investor, you are probably doing it wrong.

Your broad point is a good one, and I'll note it is not completely asymmetric by gender either. Anyone with functional communication skills should be able to resolve this potential for misinterpretation fairly early and painlessly.


How are you supposed to sell to people who feel you don't give a damn about their opinion?


Your comment's parent is more nuanced. A surplus of attention signals desperation, and ends up undermining your efforts. There's a fine line.


Perhaps you aren't. That isn't the only alternative on offer.


Huh, why wouldn't you talk about young children with investors, esp if they have some themselves?


A possible explanation is that those who have children know that they take quite a lot of attention/focus.


but those who have children also know (more than people without children) that having children didn't stop them from achieving their success


This assumes they had kids before becoming a success. What about the people who achieved success first, and then had kids? They might believe the exact opposite.

And if you're a partner at a VC firm with toddlers, it's quite likely you did things in that order.


This is the reasoning.

It's enormously exacerbated for female founders with young children. And God forbid you be pregnant or planning to have more.


Of course, it's an entirely reasonable thing to think.

A good parent spends more time with their children than anything else.

And I've dropped the ball on work stuff when I had more important life stuff to handle.

And I'd skip using some contracting firm (or anyone/thing else) if I thought they'd take off for greener pastures as soon as they found a better client.

Combine those things and nobody reasonable will enter into a critical deal with a new/upcoming parent where that person is in the critical path. It's not PC to say this, but you'd be a fool to discount it. And If that person doesn't prioritize their children you probably don't want to deal with them simply because of that.

fwiw, the same logic applies to anyone with any non-business focus that outweighs their business focus. From cancer to marathon running. This is your life too and blowing your chances on misguided charity doesn't let you take the time to raise your children or nurture your sick spouse.


> A good parent spends more time with their children than anything else.

This isn't necessarily true. However, sleep deprivation (rather than actual hours spent with the kids) is a big problem.


imho, one thought I've heard is to avoid having a personal relationship until after the professional relationship is successful. One possibility is if the investor and entrepreneur are parents, they are not on equal footing or capability, and being parent's shouldn't be used to somehow compromise, blur, or bend the professional relationship by either side. I've had friendships come out of successful professional relationships, but putting friendship before doing the work is a bit harder.


I am highly entertained by the amount of discussion/nitpicking I'm seeing in this thread. It's a perfect example of the article's core point.


A great line from TFA:

"I don't have time to fight with people who are trying to misunderstand me."


[flagged]


It's not OK to attack other users like this on Hacker News. Please stop.


The startup ecosystem is still majority vindictively anti-diversity? That's sad.


It's a tiny minority with a higher-order impact:

* A small subset of the startup ecosystem is implicitly/explicitly biased.

* A larger subset of the startup ecosystem recognizes that fact, and won't invest in diverse founders (all things being equal) because of the additional hurdles we have to clear.

* Everyone else knows that some people are cautious about funding diversity because some people are biased.

That first tiny percentage has the devil's own leverage.


I have also heard roughly the opposite model, namely:

1. A small subset of the startup ecosystem wants to fund diverse founders, and is willing to compromise on startup quality to do so.

2. A larger subset of the startup ecosystem recognizes that fact, and won't invest in diverse founders (all things being equal) because they are worse due to group #1 funding worse companies.

3. Everyone else knows about #1 and #2, and so are cautious about funding diversity.

I'm curious if you have considered this way of looking at the world, and know of any data that would let me conclude it was less accurate than the version you outlined above.


In my personal experience people are far more eager to pay lip service to diversity than dollars.

Though since both hypotheses support the same conclusion I'm not sure it matters which is correct.


There are other conclusions and interpretations you can draw from the two lines of reasoning. Much of the effectiveness of dog-whistle politics is that most of what's said remain non-explicit, so let me pop that:

The reasoning that there is a small group who would refuse to fund nonwhites/women, and that has an knock-on effect on everybody else suggests:

-that there is a 'culture of racism/mysogyny'

-that we need more diversity training

-that we need to move the overton window to exclude those people with the unacceptable views (and we should do so via diversity training)

-that we need to spend money to fund the people to make the above happen.

OTOH, the reasoning that many startups lead by nonwhites and/or women got seed-funding via affirmative action despite not being strong enough to get funded on a level playground, leading to lower average quality, leading to warier investors and difficulty attracting further funding suggests:

- that there is no 'culture of racism/mysogyny', just people being rational with their money.

- that we need to wind back the irrational AA money that is distorting the market and wasting its investors' money

- that 'diversity training' is not the answer and possibly counterproductive.

-that the overton window is either fine where it is, or could be moved a bit the other way.

It is unfortunate that there is so much attached here, and I'm fairly sure most of those things are not the intended interpretations by the posters, but you can see how this is a very baggage laiden discussion. Partially it's because it echoes many, many similar discussions elsewhere, and many of those previous discussions made many people very angry at each other.


The business case for diversity is not that "it would be nice to have it", it's the McKinsey study that diverse companies consistently outperform homogenous ones.

So in the end investors who resist diversity miss out on some runaway successes.


From Peter Thiel (http://www.businessinsider.com/peter-thiel-google-monopoly-2...):

> Google's motto — "Don't be evil" — is in part a branding play, but it's also characteristic of a kind of business that's successful enough to take ethics seriously without jeopardizing its own existence.

> Monopolists can afford to think about things other than making money; non-monopolists can't. In perfect competition, a business is so focused on today's margins that it can't possibly plan for a long-term future. Only one thing can allow a business to transcend the daily brute struggle for survival: monopoly profits.

The McKinsey study (at least to my reading[1]) establishes correlation, not causation. It could well be the other way around, ie: basically everyone agrees that diversity is an ethically good thing... so perhaps profitable companies are more diverse because they can afford to be, rather than being more profitable because they're diverse.

This seems falsifiable btw... we could brainstorm perks that companies offer when they're doing well, and see how closely the correlation there matches McKinsey's observed 35% overperformance.

[1] From the summary at http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-... - The pdf is behind a paywall, sadly.


You make a very good point, and my problem with McKinsey study was its bundling of various industries without subsequent breakdown by field. While it seems natural that customer-facing enterprises benefit from diversity (sales people, nurses, customer support), where a customer might seek out a familiar face, the analogy seems to stretch when you stretch it to other areas (tractor manufacturing, winemaking, etc.)

P.S. The McKinsey article is behind a wall, not paywall, just a registered account with mckinsey.com


I'm not a native speaker. What does "devil's own leverage" mean in this context? I don't think it's an idiom. Do you mean that their behaviour is what drives everybody else's?


In this context, it just means "very strong". The idea is that biased investors have a lot of leverage, despite being a minority, because of the environment they're in. So yes, it's that their behavior is driving everyone else's.


That can be seen as a positive thing - it's hard to make money as an investor in this ecosystem by just following the groupthink, therefore the contrarians stand to make the most money.


if the diversity racket is so small why does it seem so many have built their careers on it?


> if the diversity racket is so small why does it seem so many have built their careers on it?

Perhaps because the diversity racket is in some way related to the group of people causing Jessica to avoid sharing thoughts online? If you can silence all the people not in your group, your group's size will appear a lot larger than it really is.


How many chief diversity officers do you see cruising through the mission in their new Teslas?

Visibility equals neither impact nor income.


It's not a career, it's a gig.

Example of a gig being a paid appearance on TV as a talking head proffering some expertise - you have to make enough noise for people to remember you and the need for your services. Compare that to a career of someone like a nurse or airline pilot - they sure are welcome to go to nursing and airline conferences to remind people about importance of nursing and air travel as well as discuss the current issues facing both fields (sometimes even on TV), but it's not a requirement to keep collecting a paycheck.




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