Is Silicon Valley a Meritocracy for Blacks, Too?
At his personal blog, Hank Williams, a technology expert, discusses why there are so few blacks in Silicon Valley. He says that tech markets are a meritocracy -- there are very few businesses where one person can create software that can reach millions of people without any additional capital -- but not Silicon Valley itself.
Consumers and businesses, for the most part, don't care what the ethnicity of their software or Internet service vendors are. Users want solutions. And so if an entrepreneur can get a great product completed cheaply, in many cases they can compete on totally even footing. Even if they ultimately need capital, explosive initial success knocks down all known barriers.
But the market *makers* operate in a world that is not particularly even-handed. The market makers are the folks that help new young companies and entrepreneurs by providing insight, mentoring, capital, and relationships. And this part of the tech world is driven by all the same types of biases that exist in the non-tech world. And it is *much* harder for even the most talented African Americans in the tech world to gain access to influential, insightful, connected mentors, let alone investors.
People, for the most part, want to work with people that are "like them" or that fit a pattern that appeals to them. There is an actual term for this among tech investors called "pattern matching". It's the idea that, without objective facts, one can decide whether someone is likely to be successful based on indirect criteria. In other words, when they see a particular pattern of "personhood" they are excited.
Read Hank Williams' entire blog entry.