(Part 2) Veteran Tech CEOs Tell Stories of Bias in Silicon Valley
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

Page: 1 2

Eric Kelly
CEO, Sphere 3D, a native application virtualization platform

How often are you invited to speak at large international tech events?
Not very often. African Americans are often overlooked for these kinds of opportunities, and that even includes those of us who are CEOs and members of boards of directors. When only 2% of the technology workforce is African American, and only a handful of those at the executive level, it makes it very difficult to have adequate representation without making it a strategic initiative. Only when organizations decide that diversity is an integral part of their corporate strategy will they ensure that their panels have the proper representation.

Don Charlton
Founder/CEO, Jazz, recruiting and performance software

What is the fundamental problem with Silicon Valley?
I have not experienced racism but I have experienced absolute, pure ignorance. People are using a polarizing word like racism to describe a very human problem. The human problem is ignorance not racism. There isn’t a grand conspiracy by Silicon Valley VCs (venture capitalists) to not invest in minorities.

But there is an ingrained, unfair analysis of success in Silicon Valley. There is a pattern that is naturally occurring in SV. [White tech company] Box, the file sharing and storing platform, has lost more money in one year of operation than all of the money black founders have raised combined. People always try to profile and point to the success of white tech founders [for their pattern matching]. They don’t talk about the wasteland of white guys who have spent billions of dollars in venture capital only to fail.

The challenge that African Americans have in tech is fighting the notion that their successes and failures are, at best, demographic and, at worst, genetic. For white males and Asians who raise money, it is all about them being individuals. This pattern matching notion in Silicon Valley is fundamentally flawed and it’s actually a self-fulfilling prophesy–this belief that only a sliver of people are able to build a successful company.

One of the mottos in the Valley is “fail fast and fail often.” How many minority-led African American startups have been able to spend $50 million in order to try to figure out an idea? A kid in college raised $40 million–twice as much as I’ve raised–for a company called Clinkle. From everything you read about the company, it is not doing great. You are asking blacks and minorities to be much more efficient in finding the next big thing than other groups of people.

Page: 1 2



MORE ON BlackEnterprise.com