(Part I) Veteran Tech CEOs Tell Stories of Bias in Silicon Valley

Nuanced racism occurs regularly for no apparent reason besides skin color

There has been a lot of talk over the past few years about the lack of diversity in tech communities. Whether it is within the Silicon Valley workforce, venture capitalist circles, or among founders of tech startups, blacks are having a hard time penetrating the world of innovation, which is run almost entirely by white and Asian men.

[RELATED: Lack of Diversity in Tech Takes Center Stage This Summer]

BlackEnterprise.com spoke with Jon Gosier and Shelton Mercer III, two young African American men who have both achieved significant influence and success on their own but decided to come together to start PredPop, a new company that specializes in using data and analytics to find new paths to monetization for the music industry. Both men are serial entrepreneurs who, by all standards, have achieved far more than most African American tech founders. Nevertheless, their journeys have not been without instances of discrimination. Gosier and Mercer opened up and candidly shared some examples of how nuanced racism has challenged their success.

Jon Gosier

Jon Gosier
The challenge in the tech industry is that you’re not going to walk into a venture capitalist office and see a confederate flag. They are not going to kick you out as soon as you walk in. But the moment you walk in a room, for whatever reason, everyone gets uncomfortable. And you become uncomfortable because they are uncomfortable. They are uncomfortable because they don’t come across people who look like you very often. It can just be awkward.

I’ve had a lot of these scenarios and I can’t say for certain that they were all because of race – it could be all sorts of other things. But when it’s happening from East Coast to West Coast, and the conflict is you, and you know they are meeting entrepreneurs all day, every day and the one thing different about you is skin, what else could it be?

It has never stopped me from doing anything but it does make it harder. For example, with my last company, Metalayer—we had customers; we had revenue; we had Comcast as an investor; we had gone through DreamIt Ventures, one of the world’s best accelerators; and we still were unable to raise venture capital. We were solving a big problem in how to make it easier to manage big data at a time when data was the biggest thing to be doing in tech, and we were unable to raise capital. We got a fair shot from some VCs (venture capitalists) but there were definitely a couple of rooms where racism existed.

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