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Addressing Silicon Valley's Race Problem : The New Yorker

Addressing Silicon Valley s Race Problem The New Yorker


A recent Nielsen report estimated African Americans’ buying power at more than a trillion dollars, and growing rapidly. The Pew Research Center found, in October, that a higher percentage of black adults used smart phones than white adults. Last year, Pew found that twenty-six per cent of black Internet users were on Twitter, compared with fourteen per cent of non-Hispanic white users and nineteen per cent of Hispanic people. A higher proportion of black respondents used Instagram, the photo-sharing service, too. But the diversity among tech users isn’t reflected among the founders of Silicon Valley companies backed by venture capitalists. One study, conducted in 2010 by CB Insights, showed that only one per cent of venture-capital-backed founders were black; eighty-three per cent of founding teams were all white. From 2009 to 2011, per capita income rose by four per cent for white Silicon Valley residents and fell by eighteen per cent for black residents.

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Tristan Walker raised $2.4 million to start a company making health and beauty products for people of color:

But that's unusual.

As the New Yorker points out, diversity among users is not reflected in Silicon Valley founders.

This is something near and dear to Ben Horowitz's heart:

Ben Horowitz, who co-founded Andreessen Horowitz, in 2009, with the Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, told me that he’s thought for a long time that black people are underrepresented among Silicon Valley’s élite. But it hit him most recently when he hosted the African-American advertising and record executive Steve Stoute for a talk at a Silicon Valley country club in March, and it drew a mostly African-American audience of nearly three hundred. “I had no idea there were this many black people in Silicon Valley, period,” he said. “It was like, where the hell did they all come from?”

Horowitz told me that he recently started an African-American “network” at Andreessen Horowitz. (“I don’t think we’ve ever talked about it out loud,” he said.) Made up of prominent black figures drawn largely from his own address book, the network includes everyone from hyper-connected C.E.O.s to rappers to entrepreneurs. The goal is to connect black founders, investors, and creative people from various industries, to meet, fund, and inspire one another. The firm has also sponsored minority-geared events, meetings, and accelerator programs.

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