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Posts tagged with ‘nilofer merchant’

Socialogy: An End Of Year Round-Up

Socialogy: Interview with Nilofer Merchant

The One Thing VCs Could Do Immediately to Increase Returns - Nilofer Merchant - Harvard Business Review →

Nilofer skewers Ted Schein of Kleiner Perkins, who insists that VCs are ‘color-blind’ despite all the evidence. 

Ted Schlein, general partner at Kleiner Perkins, was recently invited to discuss race and investment in technology. The conversation took place at an inaugural conference called Platform, created by Hank Williams after a provocative series that Soledad O’Brien did on CNN on black entrepreneurship. At Platform, luminaries like Quincy Jones and Governor Deval Patrick, as well as entrepreneurs like urban revitalizer Majora Carter, and Juliana Rotich of Ushahidi came together to discuss what specific changes could be made to have all aboard the innovation economy.

And so all ears were tuned in when well-known VC Ted Schlein of Kleiner Perkins started talking… but Ted denied there was a problem. Despite the story the numbers tell — women receive less than three percent of all venture capital funding, and blacks even less than that — Ted said that the venture capital community was “color-blind” and “operates fully on a meritocracy.” This continued argument disregards the astounding facts that essentially 100 percent of funded founders are white or Asian, and 89 percent of founding teams are all-male.

Since then, we’ve had the case of Paul Graham, whorecently got into a brouhaha because he claimed a correlation “between founders having very strong foreign accents and their companies doing badly.” He continued to dig into his argument, believing people were simply misunderstanding him, but he doesn’t acknowledge the facts: immigrants with accents do found successful startups, but often without VC support. Kauffman Foundation research shows that more than half of Silicon Valley start-ups are founded by foreign-born entrepreneurs. Imagine if those with accents could get your support — what tougher problems could they solve?

And who can forget that only two years ago, Vinod Khosla saidthat only the young can innovate. “People under 35 are the people who make change happen,” said Khosla, who explained his belief that old entrepreneurs can’t innovate because they keep “falling back on old habits,” because “people over 45 basically die in terms of new ideas.”

So, basically, if you followed this limited logic… you’d hear that if you’re a woman, black, foreign, or old, you need not apply; you will not be seen. No matter how good your idea could be. No matter how many lives it could save, or new solutions you create, or how much revenue it could generate.

At the core, VCs share a culture which like all culture has foundational beliefs that are generally unspoken and which are taken as givens. VCs — and the larger tech community — wants to believe their culture is meritorius, and that the ones that become successful succeed on their talent, not on luck or privilege. As a result, they will disregard evidence to the contrary and exclude those that say the unspeakable.

Nilofer wants to change that culture, and hopes that a group of influential figures might step forward to make that happen. My bet is that we need a shift in the larger culture, the one in which VC culture is embedded and from which it draws it power, before we will see very many more black, brown, or female faces at venture-backed start-ups or VC firms.

I’ve Given Up On Balance. I’m Going For Depth Instead.

Perhaps it’s the end of the year that’s causing so much self reflection, so much concern about work/life balance, about information overload, about obsessive checking of our twitter feeds, about the value of disconnecting. Yesterday it was Daniele Fiandaca and Brad Feld, today, Nilofer Merchant.

In a fragmented world, go deep - Nilofer Merchant

It’s a fragmented world. And it’s only becoming more so. It used to be that when people wrote, they wrote more deeply. In the early days of the web (pre-twitter), I remember hand picking the few voices I would listen to and then putting them into my RSS feeder and checking for their essays. Essays, not tweets, were the way we shared what we were thinking. But as “content” has become more important to maintain a standing online, more and more people are entering into the fray. More and more people who may not even have a point of view to advocate but just want to participate in the conversation.

As content becomes more fragmented, you could try and compete with that by doing more and more, by curating other people’s content, by then running your content through Twylah, by having that “twitter magazine” come out which puts all your tweets and links in one place so that people can catch it if they missed each particular one.

Or you could do the opposite. You could go deep. You could be that voice that everyone listens to because when it speaks, it is so deep and rich that it’s worth slowing down to listen to. 

Or, perhaps more importantly, you could chose to follow others who you think have gone deep.

As I said yesterday: Choosing who to follow is the single most important act in a connected world.

In a post from December 2010, I wrote 

I have said for years that I’ve given up on finding a balance in life, I’m going for depth instead. But it’s not really the case. It’s just that I am looking for something larger.


Instead, consider the contour of a well-ordered humanism laid out by Claude Levi-Strauss:

A well-ordered humanism does not begin with itself, but puts things back in their place. It puts the world before life, life before man, and the respect of others before love of self.

So, for me, balance can’t be self-centered, it must be world-centered.

So I seek out people that consider that as a balanced mindset, and who go deep with that as their polestar, as a guide.

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