September 2, 2014
Last Friday, Y Combinator president Sam Altman said that the seed accelerator will be greatly increasing efforts to recruit more black entrepreneurs through their program. Y Combinator recently opened up the application process for its 2015 Winter class of startups, and Altman said that they’re hoping to increase the number of black applicants by adding black colleges to its recruiting schedule this fall, as well as working with organizations that have close connections with the black community.
“If we were to limit ourselves to founders of one group, we would miss out on a lot of great companies,” said Altman in the report by USA Today. “We are making it known that we want to do more on this.”
Only 1 percent of all Y Combinator applicants are black, with three black founders included in YC’s most recent class of startups. Considering YC’s position as the most highly regarded accelerator, the numbers don’t look so great, and they’re revealing of the prevalent issues and criticisms that remain regarding the entire startup ecosystem: that this is a reality designed primarily for the young, white man. And the reason for this, said Altman, is because those in tech have this kind of “blind spot” where it fails to recognize certain founders or companies because of innate bias in the system:
“Whether real or perceived, and I personally think it’s real, there is a belief among these founders that they get taken less seriously and that makes it harder to get funding, press, customers, you name it,” said Altman. “If you feel like the world wants a 22-year-old white man and you are not that, of course it negatively affects you.”
This isn’t the first time that Altman has discussed the issue of diversity within the tech sector. This past July, he wrote a post discussing the diversity of YC’s portfolio and what they do to promote gender and racial diversity. Some, however, criticized the post for discussing merely sexism in tech, without really touching up the issue of racial discrimination; Altman’s comments in the USA Today piece reveal that he recognizes that such discrimination is evident in the sector – and that Y Combinator is doing whatever it can to change that.
— Vivek Wadhwa (@wadhwa) August 29, 2014
It’s a bold and certainly laudable effort by YC, which – as USA Today points out – could impact reverberations throughout Silicon Valley, due to its massive influence and network. The hope, for now, is whether such efforts can have an actual effect on the number of black entrepreneurs going through its program.
Y Combinator is now accepting applications for the Winter 2015 cycle. Applications are due October 14th.
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