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Startup America needs to look more like America (priforce.me)
27 points by ggordan on Feb 11, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 26 comments



As if founders have to be selected or hired by others. Founding means hiring yourself. Founders have to be ready for a protracted struggle against the status quo, not special adoption by it.

I had to laugh when the Founder Institute's admission of Lecole Cole was mentioned as taking some kind of educated chance. Lecole had a proven track record before that experience and didn't need any special treatment. But he absolutely took advantage of every legitimate opportunity that came his way.

"Disruption is fine as long as it's caused by white, male, Ivy-league hipsters in skinny jeans." - as if people sit down and examine new things in light of who made them. Customers want value. If a feature will save them $5 a month, they'll trade with martians if they have to.

Those that don't like disruption are the established market players. I'm pretty sure they don't decide to yield their markets because the disruptor looks like them.

One only needs to meet people that have made it to the US that have struggled to achieve elsewhere to get the sense of how much opportunity there actually is here. And those who sit on their hands waiting for the light to turn green are going to have a long wait.


You make good points but I think you're looking at this from a slightly different point of view, than might allow you understand what the writer is trying to say

True ... users don't care about what color you are. As long as you bring something to market that they like, they will buy it. But what about all the little steps needed to get you to that point?

You know, getting a developer/business guy to partner up with? Getting someone to fund your idea? Getting the meeting to even see that guy? etc etc ...

You see, race plays a very subconscious (and sometimes a very overt) role in the way some of these things play out ... and without screaming "RACISM" ... I think people need to be open to the idea that there can be subtle biases in the entire process that makes it so that ... if you don't fit a certain profile, you don't get funded.

There is also the more cancerous problem of some minorities not having an example they can follow ... if Obama didn't become president ... there would still be an entire Generation of kids that thought it wasn't possible for a Black person to be president in America today.

Obama didn't give a fuck about that, which is what makes him so special ... but you have to realize that he's an outlier ... and not everybody has his kind of brilliance and just plain cojones to actually do the very thing that nobody thinks you can.

Yet its undeniable that once there's a visible minority role model to point to, people will actually look up to them and follow in their footsteps.

So yes, I realize the author makes that point in a very accusatory way ... it irks me too. But if you put that aside and realize that by actually going out of your way to hire/mentor a black/latino developer/designer/business analyst to your start up, you're opening that world up to an entire generation of minority kids that would never even have had that shot ... then I think we're halfway to where we need to be.


> Customers want value. If a feature will save them $5 a month, they'll trade with martians if they have to.

You're out of your mind if you think that white men who golf don't have a leg up for all things B2B.


The article focussed on how the creators of "Facebook," "Google," "MySpace," "BEBO," "Twitter." don't look like the students. You may be right about the golfing set & B2B, but you're adding your own spin.

I just came back from a 'Wall Street' conference down in Orlando : The delegates there came in all shapes, sizes, genders, nationalities and hues. Far more so than the people getting off the plane to go to Disneyland, IMHO.


You're out of your mind if you think that a pair of hippies could build the world's biggest tech company.

It's always an uphill battle no matter who you are. The world isn't fair; disregard it and startup anyways.


yeah, the last thing you want to do is buy into the notion that the world is aligned against you. Its a self fulfilling prophecy and we do people a disservice propagating the idea.


Yet ... many many minority kids grow up with that mindset, and just telling them they're wrong is not going to get them to change their mindset ... in fact it will only make them more defensive and angry at you.

You know what could be productive? Acknowledging that there are more things stacked against them than the average white kid, for example, but that life is kind of like that.

So since nobody rises to low expectations ... they need to set high standards for themselves and fight like hell to achieve those expectations because even though the odds aren't in their favor ... what used to be a 20 foot concrete wall now is nowadays only a little hurdle ... they just have to actually jump


Well, I'm not in the business of telling minority kids they are wrong.

I'm just advocating that we don't reinforce the idea that achievement requires that you must be approved of by the mainstream. It does not. Dozens of other things are more important. Let us focus on those.


Don't think of it as reinforcement ... think of it as validation ;)

Seriously ... it goes a long way to hear somebody say to you

"you're not crazy, it is a bit tougher out there for you being a minority and based on that you've come a long way"

Thats when you follow it up with

"... but you can go even further"


No, thanks. I'll just continue to treat all people as capable of performing amazing things and accepting them as they develop to whatever extent.


Recognizing the myriad factors involved in social capital, social networks, and cultural bias should not be misconstrued as reinforcing privilege. In practice, it's exactly the opposite.


you're out of your mind if you think they won't cross the street if they can make a million more.


Things aren't that simple, we're not just dealing with people selling a proven, viable product, we're dealing with how venture capital is acquired and funding secured, especially for ideas which are risky or unproven, which "disruptive" technologies inherently are.

There's the concept of social capital, and how social networks and cultural bias affect that for founders.

It's true that a non-privileged founder who builds the ultimate money-saving, world-changing technology will have a harder time being ignored, but we should never be so willing to handwave such obvious homogeny amongst the elite.


Even the dumb, biased people with money have to compete with smart investors that leave no stone, black or white, unturned in their search for opportunity.

Hegemony is simply not there. There is competition in venture capital and against venture capital.

It only takes a minority of investors to make an investment. And most of them are quite used to dissenting and thinking for themselves.


> Even the dumb, biased people with money have to compete with smart investors that leave no stone, black or white, unturned in their search for opportunity

You might be surprised at how untrue that turns out to be. Investors are focused on winning ... and to do that they'll usually go with what fits the prototype of a winner ... much the same way NFL teams pick quarterbacks (right height, right throwing motion, etc)

People aren't just going to throw thousands of dollars after minorities just because there might be a Google there somewhere ... they're going to go where the hits are coming ... MIT, San Francisco, Harvard ... places that many minorities are not.


> MIT, San Francisco, Harvard ... places that many minorities are not.

Have you been to San Francisco? It's one of the most diverse places on the planet. And it's not only in terms of race but also language, culture, religion and sexual practices.


> San Francisco Yes I have ... didn't see that many black folks when I was there.


Diversity doesn't narrowly equate to the number of black people you encounter during visits.

According to Wikipedia, San Fransisco is 7.3% black, 31.3% asian, 14.0% hispanic and a total of 35.6% of the residents are from outside the US. It also has the highest ratio of gay/lesbian individuals of anywhere in the US at 15.4%.

That is a LOT of minorities and a lot of diversity no matter how you slice it and downmodding me won't change the fact.


Yes I have.


Sure they will ... the problem is they typically don't think the average black/latino kid is going to make them that million, if he isn't playing professional sports


I'm not even sure what most of the important people in tech look like, outside of the big-names that get their pictures put on websites.

I like it that way in many aspects, because it provides a clear disassociation with physical externalities and allows a clarity on their ideas, unclouded by whatever biases I have. It's one reason I prefer all-text chat to avatar chats.


In this article, it says that the majority of founders in SV are immigrants: http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/10/28/west.immigration/index...


I'm not even sure what most of the important people in tech look like

I'm pretty sure you can make an educated guess.

Not knowing isn't some sort of trump card to a systemic problem. No more than ignoring your book keeping is a solution to bankruptcy.


There are a disproportionate number of women and minorities in leading or supporting roles within venture investment sized start-ups. Historically, companies owned by women and minorities have received less than 5% of total venture capital investments over the past 40 years and minorities have only accounted for 3.7% of entrepreneurs in venture scale start-ups.


Its simply not true that children won't believe they can do something if they don't see someone who looks like them doing it.

If it were the case, there'd be all sorts of adopted kids completely incapable of doing things.

It is true that if people do not see a certain behavior or do not see that it is successful, they are less likely to adopt the behavior themselves. But even then, children create and experiment with behaviors all the time. Unless, of course, they are actively discouraged from doing so.

We don't simply repeat what we see. We are capable of assessing the way people act around us and judging whether or not behavior works.

But if children are surrounded by people not practicing successful behaviors and also are actively discouraged from experimenting, its a lot less likely they will be successful at whatever they choose to do.


I would like to see a survey on how many people actually WANT to be founders based on race/sex compared to the percentage of the population that ARE. This article assumes that every profession needs to match the distribution of the overall population




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